Happy Birthday Isaac Newton!

Apple Nicola here, dropping in to wish Sir Isaac Newton, one of most visionary of scientists, a very happy birthday. Google is celebrating the day with a rather cute header that displays a falling apple!

One of the interesting things about Newton's birthday is that the actual date is disputed. Pinpointing specific dates was something of a problem in the days before official records of births, marriages and deaths were kept consistently. Whilst some records state that Newton was born on 4th January 1642, others give Christmas Day as his birth date. At any rate, Newton was born at Woolsthorpe Manor in Lincolnshire and last summer I had the pleasure of visiting this beautiful little manor house. It was a gorgeous sunny day and people were picnicking in the orchard underneath the famous apple tree!

Newton came from a farming family but swiftly discovered that he was not cut out for the farming life. Sir Isaac Newton When he was put in charge of the flock of sheep they all wandered off because he was too busy scribbling  mathematical calculations to keep his eye on them. Apparently even as a child he would amuse himself by doing simple experiments and making models to try and understand things like wind speed and force. From an early age he showed unusual interest in a number of mathematical and scientific problems, as well as developing an understanding of astronomy.  He studied at Grantham School and at Cambridge University, a considerable acheivement for a boy from a relatively poor family. Later he returned to Woolsthorpe in 1665-1666 because of the threat of plague in Cambridge, and it is during that period that he did some of the most intense and inventive work of his life. He also wrote the Principia, his treatise on the Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosopy, at this time.

One of the nice things about visiting Woolsthorpe now is that there is an interactive science centre where you can learn about Newton's discoveries about light and gravity by trying out hands on experiments. For a complete science Luddite like myself it was lots of fun because it explained complicated theories in words of one syllable. For my husband, a scientist by training, it was even more fun because he could play! My favourite aspect of the house, however, was Newton's graffiti. He was known to have made a habit of using various walls in the house as 'doodling pads' and fragments of this writingcan be seen scrawled in several places!

Woolsthorpe Manor The aspect of Woolsthorpe that struck me the most, though, was the rural isolation and the silence. It made it easy to imagine the twenty four year old Newton working away on all his mind-blowing new scientific theories in such a peaceful setting. On the other hand, the contrast with a city like Cambridge, buzzing with fellow academics and new ideas, was extreme. As someone who lives and works in a tiny village I sometimes find the isolation lonely and oppressive and yearn for a few people to talk to and bounce ideas off. It made me wonder if Newton found it more conducive to work in the solitude of Woolsthorpe or the bustle of Cambridge.

We may not all be Newtons, but we all need certain conditions to work at our best. Where do you have your best ideas? Do you need peace and quiet or do you find that working with others inspires your work? Or is it a bit of both?

40 thoughts on “Happy Birthday Isaac Newton!”

  1. Sherrie, here.
    Nicola, your posts are always so fascinating! If I ever get to the UK, I would want you to be my tour guide. I could be your little shadow and happily follow you around all day.
    As far as where I get my best ideas, I have to say that ideas can form at any time and in any setting. It can germinate from a snatch of conversation overheard on the street or a song on the radio. I’m bombarded by story ideas all day long, and would happily retire a millionaire if I could sell every one of my ideas (and I’d still have some left over for me).
    When I write, I prefer relative quiet, i.e., my home in the country, with music in the background. But I can conjure ideas or write just about anywhere, no matter how noisy or crowded. I sometimes feel an insular quality to crowds. So many people, so much noise, and you sort of become anonymous and invisible.

    Reply
  2. Sherrie, here.
    Nicola, your posts are always so fascinating! If I ever get to the UK, I would want you to be my tour guide. I could be your little shadow and happily follow you around all day.
    As far as where I get my best ideas, I have to say that ideas can form at any time and in any setting. It can germinate from a snatch of conversation overheard on the street or a song on the radio. I’m bombarded by story ideas all day long, and would happily retire a millionaire if I could sell every one of my ideas (and I’d still have some left over for me).
    When I write, I prefer relative quiet, i.e., my home in the country, with music in the background. But I can conjure ideas or write just about anywhere, no matter how noisy or crowded. I sometimes feel an insular quality to crowds. So many people, so much noise, and you sort of become anonymous and invisible.

    Reply
  3. Sherrie, here.
    Nicola, your posts are always so fascinating! If I ever get to the UK, I would want you to be my tour guide. I could be your little shadow and happily follow you around all day.
    As far as where I get my best ideas, I have to say that ideas can form at any time and in any setting. It can germinate from a snatch of conversation overheard on the street or a song on the radio. I’m bombarded by story ideas all day long, and would happily retire a millionaire if I could sell every one of my ideas (and I’d still have some left over for me).
    When I write, I prefer relative quiet, i.e., my home in the country, with music in the background. But I can conjure ideas or write just about anywhere, no matter how noisy or crowded. I sometimes feel an insular quality to crowds. So many people, so much noise, and you sort of become anonymous and invisible.

    Reply
  4. Sherrie, here.
    Nicola, your posts are always so fascinating! If I ever get to the UK, I would want you to be my tour guide. I could be your little shadow and happily follow you around all day.
    As far as where I get my best ideas, I have to say that ideas can form at any time and in any setting. It can germinate from a snatch of conversation overheard on the street or a song on the radio. I’m bombarded by story ideas all day long, and would happily retire a millionaire if I could sell every one of my ideas (and I’d still have some left over for me).
    When I write, I prefer relative quiet, i.e., my home in the country, with music in the background. But I can conjure ideas or write just about anywhere, no matter how noisy or crowded. I sometimes feel an insular quality to crowds. So many people, so much noise, and you sort of become anonymous and invisible.

    Reply
  5. Sherrie, here.
    Nicola, your posts are always so fascinating! If I ever get to the UK, I would want you to be my tour guide. I could be your little shadow and happily follow you around all day.
    As far as where I get my best ideas, I have to say that ideas can form at any time and in any setting. It can germinate from a snatch of conversation overheard on the street or a song on the radio. I’m bombarded by story ideas all day long, and would happily retire a millionaire if I could sell every one of my ideas (and I’d still have some left over for me).
    When I write, I prefer relative quiet, i.e., my home in the country, with music in the background. But I can conjure ideas or write just about anywhere, no matter how noisy or crowded. I sometimes feel an insular quality to crowds. So many people, so much noise, and you sort of become anonymous and invisible.

    Reply
  6. I’m so pleased you like it, Sherrie, and you know I would be THRILLED to be your tour guide if you ever come to the UK. I love to share my favourite historic places. I envy you the ability to conjure ideas everywhere and I really like the idea of slipping between the crowds, observing but invisible…

    Reply
  7. I’m so pleased you like it, Sherrie, and you know I would be THRILLED to be your tour guide if you ever come to the UK. I love to share my favourite historic places. I envy you the ability to conjure ideas everywhere and I really like the idea of slipping between the crowds, observing but invisible…

    Reply
  8. I’m so pleased you like it, Sherrie, and you know I would be THRILLED to be your tour guide if you ever come to the UK. I love to share my favourite historic places. I envy you the ability to conjure ideas everywhere and I really like the idea of slipping between the crowds, observing but invisible…

    Reply
  9. I’m so pleased you like it, Sherrie, and you know I would be THRILLED to be your tour guide if you ever come to the UK. I love to share my favourite historic places. I envy you the ability to conjure ideas everywhere and I really like the idea of slipping between the crowds, observing but invisible…

    Reply
  10. I’m so pleased you like it, Sherrie, and you know I would be THRILLED to be your tour guide if you ever come to the UK. I love to share my favourite historic places. I envy you the ability to conjure ideas everywhere and I really like the idea of slipping between the crowds, observing but invisible…

    Reply
  11. I get up very early every morning (between 4 and 5) and spend quiet time in my little writing room. I don’t know if my ideas are “the best”, but I enjoy the solitude and cozyness parked in front of the computer— a far cry from the rest of the day, when I am surrounded by 800+ kids and adults.I sometimes get snatches of ideas in dreams or in the bathtub, and I work much better alone…talking to myself. 🙂

    Reply
  12. I get up very early every morning (between 4 and 5) and spend quiet time in my little writing room. I don’t know if my ideas are “the best”, but I enjoy the solitude and cozyness parked in front of the computer— a far cry from the rest of the day, when I am surrounded by 800+ kids and adults.I sometimes get snatches of ideas in dreams or in the bathtub, and I work much better alone…talking to myself. 🙂

    Reply
  13. I get up very early every morning (between 4 and 5) and spend quiet time in my little writing room. I don’t know if my ideas are “the best”, but I enjoy the solitude and cozyness parked in front of the computer— a far cry from the rest of the day, when I am surrounded by 800+ kids and adults.I sometimes get snatches of ideas in dreams or in the bathtub, and I work much better alone…talking to myself. 🙂

    Reply
  14. I get up very early every morning (between 4 and 5) and spend quiet time in my little writing room. I don’t know if my ideas are “the best”, but I enjoy the solitude and cozyness parked in front of the computer— a far cry from the rest of the day, when I am surrounded by 800+ kids and adults.I sometimes get snatches of ideas in dreams or in the bathtub, and I work much better alone…talking to myself. 🙂

    Reply
  15. I get up very early every morning (between 4 and 5) and spend quiet time in my little writing room. I don’t know if my ideas are “the best”, but I enjoy the solitude and cozyness parked in front of the computer— a far cry from the rest of the day, when I am surrounded by 800+ kids and adults.I sometimes get snatches of ideas in dreams or in the bathtub, and I work much better alone…talking to myself. 🙂

    Reply
  16. **I really like the idea of slipping between the crowds, observing but invisible…**
    Nicola, if that isn’t the definition of a writer, I don’t know what is! Thanks for the intriguing post. I went right to Google to admire the apples falling. *g*
    Thanks also for the picture of the young Newton. He was quite hunky! I usually think of him as old and bewigged.
    I’ve heard that most genius mathematicians make their greatest discoveries when they’re 25 or younger,so maybe his time fleeing from the plague is what made hims so famous later, when he was developing his theories in depth in Cambridge.
    I look forward to getting to England so you and I can walk the Downs with Monty!
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  17. **I really like the idea of slipping between the crowds, observing but invisible…**
    Nicola, if that isn’t the definition of a writer, I don’t know what is! Thanks for the intriguing post. I went right to Google to admire the apples falling. *g*
    Thanks also for the picture of the young Newton. He was quite hunky! I usually think of him as old and bewigged.
    I’ve heard that most genius mathematicians make their greatest discoveries when they’re 25 or younger,so maybe his time fleeing from the plague is what made hims so famous later, when he was developing his theories in depth in Cambridge.
    I look forward to getting to England so you and I can walk the Downs with Monty!
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  18. **I really like the idea of slipping between the crowds, observing but invisible…**
    Nicola, if that isn’t the definition of a writer, I don’t know what is! Thanks for the intriguing post. I went right to Google to admire the apples falling. *g*
    Thanks also for the picture of the young Newton. He was quite hunky! I usually think of him as old and bewigged.
    I’ve heard that most genius mathematicians make their greatest discoveries when they’re 25 or younger,so maybe his time fleeing from the plague is what made hims so famous later, when he was developing his theories in depth in Cambridge.
    I look forward to getting to England so you and I can walk the Downs with Monty!
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  19. **I really like the idea of slipping between the crowds, observing but invisible…**
    Nicola, if that isn’t the definition of a writer, I don’t know what is! Thanks for the intriguing post. I went right to Google to admire the apples falling. *g*
    Thanks also for the picture of the young Newton. He was quite hunky! I usually think of him as old and bewigged.
    I’ve heard that most genius mathematicians make their greatest discoveries when they’re 25 or younger,so maybe his time fleeing from the plague is what made hims so famous later, when he was developing his theories in depth in Cambridge.
    I look forward to getting to England so you and I can walk the Downs with Monty!
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  20. **I really like the idea of slipping between the crowds, observing but invisible…**
    Nicola, if that isn’t the definition of a writer, I don’t know what is! Thanks for the intriguing post. I went right to Google to admire the apples falling. *g*
    Thanks also for the picture of the young Newton. He was quite hunky! I usually think of him as old and bewigged.
    I’ve heard that most genius mathematicians make their greatest discoveries when they’re 25 or younger,so maybe his time fleeing from the plague is what made hims so famous later, when he was developing his theories in depth in Cambridge.
    I look forward to getting to England so you and I can walk the Downs with Monty!
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  21. **I really like the idea of slipping between the crowds, observing but invisible…**
    Nicely put, Nicola, and Mary Jo is so right–that is so like a writer, isn’t it?
    Forgot to mention how intrigued I am by the interactive science center at Woolsthorpe. I love that sort of thing, and would happily spend hours there immersed in the interactive project.

    Reply
  22. **I really like the idea of slipping between the crowds, observing but invisible…**
    Nicely put, Nicola, and Mary Jo is so right–that is so like a writer, isn’t it?
    Forgot to mention how intrigued I am by the interactive science center at Woolsthorpe. I love that sort of thing, and would happily spend hours there immersed in the interactive project.

    Reply
  23. **I really like the idea of slipping between the crowds, observing but invisible…**
    Nicely put, Nicola, and Mary Jo is so right–that is so like a writer, isn’t it?
    Forgot to mention how intrigued I am by the interactive science center at Woolsthorpe. I love that sort of thing, and would happily spend hours there immersed in the interactive project.

    Reply
  24. **I really like the idea of slipping between the crowds, observing but invisible…**
    Nicely put, Nicola, and Mary Jo is so right–that is so like a writer, isn’t it?
    Forgot to mention how intrigued I am by the interactive science center at Woolsthorpe. I love that sort of thing, and would happily spend hours there immersed in the interactive project.

    Reply
  25. **I really like the idea of slipping between the crowds, observing but invisible…**
    Nicely put, Nicola, and Mary Jo is so right–that is so like a writer, isn’t it?
    Forgot to mention how intrigued I am by the interactive science center at Woolsthorpe. I love that sort of thing, and would happily spend hours there immersed in the interactive project.

    Reply
  26. Maggie, I like the idea of you snatching quiet times away from all the noise and bustle. I have another writer friend who says she gets all her best writing ideas in the bath!
    LOL, Mary Jo, the young Newton was quite hot, wasn’t he! I always tend to think of him as sexless, dedicated to his work, etc, but maybe not. Interesting about geniuses being young prodigies. I read at least one source that said Newton attributed much of his success in his later work to the experiments he undertook at Woolsthorpe when he was only 24.
    Sherrie, the interactive science centre was great! It was mostly aimed at school children but most of the people trying out the exhibits were adults!

    Reply
  27. Maggie, I like the idea of you snatching quiet times away from all the noise and bustle. I have another writer friend who says she gets all her best writing ideas in the bath!
    LOL, Mary Jo, the young Newton was quite hot, wasn’t he! I always tend to think of him as sexless, dedicated to his work, etc, but maybe not. Interesting about geniuses being young prodigies. I read at least one source that said Newton attributed much of his success in his later work to the experiments he undertook at Woolsthorpe when he was only 24.
    Sherrie, the interactive science centre was great! It was mostly aimed at school children but most of the people trying out the exhibits were adults!

    Reply
  28. Maggie, I like the idea of you snatching quiet times away from all the noise and bustle. I have another writer friend who says she gets all her best writing ideas in the bath!
    LOL, Mary Jo, the young Newton was quite hot, wasn’t he! I always tend to think of him as sexless, dedicated to his work, etc, but maybe not. Interesting about geniuses being young prodigies. I read at least one source that said Newton attributed much of his success in his later work to the experiments he undertook at Woolsthorpe when he was only 24.
    Sherrie, the interactive science centre was great! It was mostly aimed at school children but most of the people trying out the exhibits were adults!

    Reply
  29. Maggie, I like the idea of you snatching quiet times away from all the noise and bustle. I have another writer friend who says she gets all her best writing ideas in the bath!
    LOL, Mary Jo, the young Newton was quite hot, wasn’t he! I always tend to think of him as sexless, dedicated to his work, etc, but maybe not. Interesting about geniuses being young prodigies. I read at least one source that said Newton attributed much of his success in his later work to the experiments he undertook at Woolsthorpe when he was only 24.
    Sherrie, the interactive science centre was great! It was mostly aimed at school children but most of the people trying out the exhibits were adults!

    Reply
  30. Maggie, I like the idea of you snatching quiet times away from all the noise and bustle. I have another writer friend who says she gets all her best writing ideas in the bath!
    LOL, Mary Jo, the young Newton was quite hot, wasn’t he! I always tend to think of him as sexless, dedicated to his work, etc, but maybe not. Interesting about geniuses being young prodigies. I read at least one source that said Newton attributed much of his success in his later work to the experiments he undertook at Woolsthorpe when he was only 24.
    Sherrie, the interactive science centre was great! It was mostly aimed at school children but most of the people trying out the exhibits were adults!

    Reply
  31. A LOL moment, Nicola- when I first read this post I read “Woolthorpe ” as “Wortlethorpe”. Wortlethorpe is the fictional town that is home to the Church Mice in the books by Graham Oakley, a hilarious children’s series. Now I am envisioning the Church mice dropping things on Newton’s head- On a serious note, thanks for all the great historical tours you’ve been bringing to the blog. Chances are pretty remote that I will ever make a trip to England, though it is my greatest wish. Next best thing is having first hand descriptions of all these places where history happened. For someone who lives in a place where few buildings are more than 100 years old, the great descriptions of the National Trust properties are fascinating. Thanks!

    Reply
  32. A LOL moment, Nicola- when I first read this post I read “Woolthorpe ” as “Wortlethorpe”. Wortlethorpe is the fictional town that is home to the Church Mice in the books by Graham Oakley, a hilarious children’s series. Now I am envisioning the Church mice dropping things on Newton’s head- On a serious note, thanks for all the great historical tours you’ve been bringing to the blog. Chances are pretty remote that I will ever make a trip to England, though it is my greatest wish. Next best thing is having first hand descriptions of all these places where history happened. For someone who lives in a place where few buildings are more than 100 years old, the great descriptions of the National Trust properties are fascinating. Thanks!

    Reply
  33. A LOL moment, Nicola- when I first read this post I read “Woolthorpe ” as “Wortlethorpe”. Wortlethorpe is the fictional town that is home to the Church Mice in the books by Graham Oakley, a hilarious children’s series. Now I am envisioning the Church mice dropping things on Newton’s head- On a serious note, thanks for all the great historical tours you’ve been bringing to the blog. Chances are pretty remote that I will ever make a trip to England, though it is my greatest wish. Next best thing is having first hand descriptions of all these places where history happened. For someone who lives in a place where few buildings are more than 100 years old, the great descriptions of the National Trust properties are fascinating. Thanks!

    Reply
  34. A LOL moment, Nicola- when I first read this post I read “Woolthorpe ” as “Wortlethorpe”. Wortlethorpe is the fictional town that is home to the Church Mice in the books by Graham Oakley, a hilarious children’s series. Now I am envisioning the Church mice dropping things on Newton’s head- On a serious note, thanks for all the great historical tours you’ve been bringing to the blog. Chances are pretty remote that I will ever make a trip to England, though it is my greatest wish. Next best thing is having first hand descriptions of all these places where history happened. For someone who lives in a place where few buildings are more than 100 years old, the great descriptions of the National Trust properties are fascinating. Thanks!

    Reply
  35. A LOL moment, Nicola- when I first read this post I read “Woolthorpe ” as “Wortlethorpe”. Wortlethorpe is the fictional town that is home to the Church Mice in the books by Graham Oakley, a hilarious children’s series. Now I am envisioning the Church mice dropping things on Newton’s head- On a serious note, thanks for all the great historical tours you’ve been bringing to the blog. Chances are pretty remote that I will ever make a trip to England, though it is my greatest wish. Next best thing is having first hand descriptions of all these places where history happened. For someone who lives in a place where few buildings are more than 100 years old, the great descriptions of the National Trust properties are fascinating. Thanks!

    Reply

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