Sir Isaac Newton Ended Up Discovering Gravity While “Social Distancing” And Working From Home During The Bubonic Plague
The situation we are facing today is quite similar to what Isaac Newton faced 350 years ago. Yes, you got that right. He was also in
lockdown owing to the Bubonic plague. But the lockdown did not make his spirit waiver. On the contrary, this was the period when Newton came up with his most famous discovery and pathbreaking theory that changed the world forever.
Isaac Newton discovered gravity when he was working from home.
Hey, no pressure… 😅https://t.co/uCy0RE9yVZ
— Kunal Bahl (@1kunalbahl) March 15, 2020
One of the most prominent personalities in the world of science, mathematics, and astronomy, Isaac Newton was just a student at
Trinity College when the plague started. Who knew that this young man was soon going to propound theories of optics, calculus, and even gravity, which would define the eras to come! Probably it was the abundance of time during the isolation that freed him up to concentrate further and delve deeper. Later on, in 1687 he came up with his crowning achievement, the “Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica”.
It is said that in 1665, after obtaining his Bachelor’s degree from Trinity College, Newtown had to discontinue his
further education temporarily, due to the outbreak of the Bubonic plague. It was at this time that the physicist conceived the theories which later on established him as one of the greatest minds of modern science. So, the man who flew well under the radar at the time of his graduation soon became a Fellow at the University.
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This chronology of events is supported by the accounts of an acquaintance in the book Memoirs of Sir Isaac Newton’s Life. We
learn that it was during this period of isolation that Newton and his friend went to a garden and experienced the famous falling of apples:
“…we went into the garden, & drank thea under the shade of some appletrees, only he, & myself. amidst other discourse, he told me, he was just in the same situation, as when formerly, the notion of gravitation came into his mind. “why should that apple always descend perpendicularly to the ground,” thought he to him self: occasion’d by the fall of an apple, as he sat in a comtemplative mood: “why should it not go sideways, or upwards? but constantly to the earths centre? assuredly, the reason is, that the earth draws it. there must be a drawing power in matter. & the sum of the drawing power in the matter of the earth must be in the earths center, not in any side of the earth. therefore dos this apple fall perpendicularly, or toward the center. if matter thus draws matter; it must be in proportion of its quantity. therefore the apple draws the earth, as well as the earth draws the apple.”
Image credit: Alexander Borek
Newton also confirmed that this event gave him the inspiration to work on his theory of gravitational force.
We should also draw inspiration from this. Today, when the world is forced into lockdown once more, instead of brooding over the
situation, we should try to ignite our minds. It is not often that we get to spend so much time away from the distraction of the din and bustle. The butterflies may require only a gentle nudge to burst out of their cocoons and spread the colorful wings!