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The Apple Tree, Trinity College, Cambridge, England

gkat_069.pdf52° 12 26.22 N, 0° 7 3.98 E

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The System of the World

Sir Isaac Newton, arguably one of the greatest scientists of all time, lived and worked at Trinity College at the University of Cambridge for much of his life. Just outside Newton’s old rooms is an apple tree believed to be descended from a tree at Newton’s home in Woolsthorpe, Lincolnshire: the tree that inspired Newton’s theory of gravitation (Figure 69-1).

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Figure 69-1. Newton’s apple tree at Trinity College, Cambridge; courtesy of Fred Parkins

Newton is not the only famous scientific alumnus of Trinity College; Trinity was the one-time home of Lord Rayleigh, J. J. Thomson, Ernest Rutherford, Niels Bohr, Sir William Henry Bragg, and 21 other Nobel Prize winners. Newton was Cambridge University’s Lucasian Professor of Mathematics (a post currently held by Stephen Hawking and previously held by Charles Babbage and Paul Dirac, among others).

Newton’s great contribution, published in 1687 in his Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, is the law of universal gravitation and his three laws of motion. These showed that Kepler’s laws about the motion of planets—that the ...

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