Matthew emailed me that he was lecturing at Isaac Newton’s house today, and would send a picture of the apple tree that supposedly inspired the theory of gravity. I responded that I thought the story was apocryphal, and here was Matthew’s response (along with two photos):
“Yes, the tree. And here’s the window the light came through that he split with a prism.”
UPDATE: How do we know that this is the window? Matthew says that the distances given in Newton’s own drawing of the experiment match that of his bedroom above. Here’s the drawing, which is included in Patricia Fara’s Roy. Soc. paper on Newton’s experiment:
Newton’s House, Woolsthorpe Manor (pictured below), is in Woolsthorpe-by-Colsterworth, near Grantham, Lincolnshire, England. This is where Newton was born and then, when Cambridge University closed in 1666 due to the plague, Newton repaired home. And it was here that he did many of his famous experiments, including the splitting of light with a prism. I still think the apple-falling incident is apocryphal, but readers are welcome to weigh in.