Woolsthorpe Manor - where gravity was discovered


Woolsthorpe Manor - where gravity was discovered

Woolsthorpe-by-Colsterworth is a village in a quiet corner of Lincolnshire, near Grantham. It contains Woolsthorpe Manor, the family home of Isaac Newton, who realised the nature of gravity here, when he saw an apple fall from an apple tree in the orchard.

Woolsthorpe Manor was the family home of Sir Isaac Newton, who was born here in 1642. At the time, Woolsthorpe-by-Costerworth was a hamlet of a few houses and Woolsthorpe Manor was a yeoman's farmstead, mostly rearing sheep.

Newton returned here in 1666 when Cambridge University closed because of the plague, and remained for about two years.

At Woolsthorpe, Newton worked on a variety of problems. It was here that he discovered the nature of white light, and that it could be split into its component colors through the use of a prism. Considerable work was also done on his theory of “fluxions,” or what is today called calculus.

Isaac Newton told his contemporary William Stukeley that his work on universal gravitation was inspired by an apple tree in the orchard at Woolsthorpe Manor.

A tree from this era still survives. Dendrochronology confirms one of the trees in the orchard to be over 400 years old, having regrown from roots surviving from a tree which blew down in 1820. It is a ‘Flower of Kent’ apple tree and now has offspring at various sites around the world. Descendants of Newton’s tree live in places such as Trinity College at Cambridge, the University of York, and even Tufts University and Babson College in Massachusetts.

Woolsthorpe Manor is now looked after by the National Trust and is open to the public. Period furniture, including some original shelves built by Newton, help recreate English life in the 1600s. Visitors also have the chance to learn about Newton’s childhood and replicate some of the physicist’s key discoveries.

Some bright spark in local tourism has also come up with the Newton Trail which encourages walkers to explore more of this little-known area - including such delights as Easton Walled Gardens.

Further reading

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