Friday, July 12, 2013
Isaac Newton's birthplace
Today we went to Isaac Newton's birthplace, Woolsthorpe Manor in Lincolnshire. It's a nice little manor house, mostly from the 17th century. In the field opposite, there's a horse with markings exactly like a Friesian cow. We nicknamed it the moo horse.
More to the point, the house has drawings scratched into the plaster walls by the young Isaac Newton.
Isaac Newton was born on Christmas Day, premature and so weak that he wasn't expected to live. His mother said that he'd fit into a quart pot (and they have a quart pot on display so that you can see how small that is). And the poor mite's father had died some months previously.
Young Isaac survived and went to school. Although his father had been illiterate, Isaac loved books.
He grew into a rather odd child, and very absent minded. Once, his mother sent him to market on a horse, and he forgot the poor horse and came home without it. Another time he let the sheep out, and his mother had to pay a hefty fine for the damage they did. The family were comfortably off, but it must have been a worry.
They never did get him interested in farming. He was always fiddling around with lenses and mirrors and prisms instead.
And famously, he sat under an apple tree one evening. No, an apple didn't hit him on the head. But he did see one fall, and it suddenly hit him that the force which pulls things towards the centre of the Earth had absolutely no reason to stop at the top of the atmosphere.
That's why the moon orbits the Earth.
That's why the Earth and all the other planets orbit the Sun
Who needs light bulbs when you've got apples?
The tree's still there.
I knew there wouldn't be any apples on it in July, so we popped to the village shop and bought our own. And I sat under the tree and ate one.