The PhysOrg.com Web site has an article about the publication, by the Royal Society, of what seems to be the original story of Sir Isaac Newton and the apple. (The Royal Society, founded in 1660, is the oldest scientific society in the English-speaking world, and is celebrating its 350th year.) The famous incident apparently occurred in the mid-1660s, at a time when Newton had returned to his family home in the north of England, owing to the closing of the University of Cambridge because of the plague. The story was recorded by William Stukeley, a contemporary of Newton’s, a number of years later when the two were having tea.
Stukeley’s manuscript recounts a spring afternoon in 1726 when the famous scientist shared the story over tea “under the shade of some apple trees.”
Stukeley wrote that Newton told him the notion of gravity popped into the scientist’s mind as he was sitting in the same situation.
The Royal Society has put a facsimile of the fragile original document on its Web site, and visitors can, virtually, browse through the manuscript. I’ve often wondered if the story recounted an actual event; it’s kind of fun to find out that it does have some basis in fact.
As part of its anniversary celebration, the Society is making a number of its historically important papers available online. In addition to the site above, more material is available at the Trailblazing site, including Newton’s 1672 theory of light and colour, and Ben Franklin’s 1752 report of flying a kite in a thunderstorm.