William & Mary

Newton Day

"Why should that apple always descent perpendicularly to the ground, thought he to himself, occasioned by the fall of an apple..." - Memoirs of Sir Isaac Newton's life, William Stukeley, 1752

               Isaac Newton (photo from http://www.wolverton-mountain.com/articles/apple_doesnt_fall_far.html)In 1666, Isaac Newton was in his mother's garden and saw an apple fall from a tree. The incident inspired him to develop his theory of gravitation. In his memoirs, he not only recalled this incident, but also recalled numerous discussions with his friend, Sir Christopher Wren, about the nature of gravity. After his death, Cambridge University received a cutting from the apple tree and planted it outside Newton's office window. The tree's direct descendant (a cutting from the tree) continues to thrive today. Approximately 55 years ago, a cutting from that tree was given to MIT and the tree is now in the President's Garden on the MIT campus.

Two years ago, on the occasion of MIT's 150th anniversary, President Reveley asked MIT if they would provide the College with a cutting, to plant outside Small Hall. After all, one of our students, William Barton Rogers, founded MIT. They agreed, and the College's experts have successfully produced several grafts. Three trees will be planted outside Small Hall on Saturday, February 22nd. All members of the College community are welcome to attend our celebration of "Newton Day".

Our Special Guests

Dava Sobel, a former New York Times science reporter, is the author of Longitude (Walker 1995 and 2005, Penguin 1996), Galileo’s Daughter (Walker 1999 and 2011, Penguin 2000), The Planets (Viking 2005, Penguin 2006), and A More Perfect Heaven (Walker / Bloomsbury, 2011 and 2012). She has also co-authored six books, including Is Anyone Out There? with astronomer Frank Drake. A long-time science contributor to Harvard Magazine, Audubon, Discover, Life, Omni, and The New Yorker, she currently writes for the on-line magazine Aeon.

The editor of the collection Best American Science Writing 2004, published by Ecco Press, Ms. Sobel has served as a judge for the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes, the Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction, the PEN / E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award, and the Lewis Thomas Prize awarded by Rockefeller University to scientists who distinguish themselves as authors. (You can read the rest of Dava Sobel's Bio here)

Mordechai Feingold, is Professor of History at the California Institute of Technology. He was trained at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (BA 1972 MA 1977) and Oxford University (D. Phil. 1980). He was a Junior Fellow at Harvard University (1981-1984) and taught at Boston University and Virginia Polytechnic Institute before joining Caltech in 2002. Feingold has authored or co-authored four books and edited seven volumes on the history of science and related matters, as well as about fifty articles. His books include The Mathematicians' Apprenticeship: Science, Universities and Society in England, 1560-1640The Newtonian Moment: Isaac Newton and the Making of Modern Culture; and, most recently, Newton and the Origin of Civilization, with Jed Buchwald. He is currently working on a history of the Royal Society. Feingold is President of the International Commission of the History of Universities, and a member of the Académie Internationale d’Histoire des Sciences. He is the editor of the Journal History of Universities and co-editor of Perspectives on Science.  

Schedule of events: 
Friday, February 21

4:00 - Mordechai Feingold, Physics Colloquium, "Newton and the Origin of Civilization",  Small Hall 110. Refreshment will be served at 3:30 in Small Hall 122.

Saturday, February 22

10:00 - 11:00 Dava Sobel will have a Q&A on science at the Cohen Career Center

12:00 - 4:00 "Newtonfest" in Small Hall. Physics interactive demos, lab tours, liquid nitrogen ice cream, observations with our telescope on the roof of Small, physics playroom (hand's-on science). 

12:00 - 4:00 Small Hall Physics Library. Swem library display of a 1687 copy of Newton's Principia, plus work by Aristotle, Galileo's Dialogo and other notable scientific works.

1:00 - 1:30 Jackson Olsen, Presentation in Small 111.  The title of talk is, "The Significance of William & Mary's Copy of the Principia."

2:00 - 3:00 Newton Tree planting ceremony, outside Small Hall (rain location: Small Hall 110). Remarks by Pres. Reveley, Dava Sobel, Mordechai Feingold, and physics faculty.

4:00 - 7:00 The theater department will give a reading of Dava Sobel's new play "And the Sun Stood Still" which is about the life of Copernicus. She will give introductory remarks from 4:00-4:30, the play will then be read, followed by a book signing in the Andrews Lobby.

8:00-10.30 Small Hall roof. Astronomical Viewing Night (Weather permitting)

More Newton Day stories:

Be there…or be 1/r²

Gravitate to the planting of Newton's apple tree on Feb. 22

Newton Day Facebook Page