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Newton's apple tree bears fruit at MIT

The descendant of Isaac Newton's tree continues to produce apples.
Caption:
The descendant of Isaac Newton's tree continues to produce apples.
Credits:
Photo / Donna Coveney
A plaque lies under the tree.
Caption:
A plaque lies under the tree.
Credits:
Photo / Donna Coveney

Ed Vetter (S.B. 1942) gave MIT an apple tree that is a direct descendant of the tree under which Isaac Newton sat when he is said to have conceived the theory of gravity.

"I couldn't think of a better place than MIT to put a tree that illustrates a law of physics," says Vetter, whose tree stands in MIT's President's Garden, a sunny spot off the Infinite Corridor.

This fall, the beloved tree bore bright, healthy fruit--a sure sign of flourishing and a link between past and present days.

The MIT apple tree was grown from a cutting of a tree in England's Royal Botanical Gardens that was grown from a cutting of Newton's apple tree. Vetter was given the plant as a gift from the National Bureau of Standards when he left office as undersecretary of the U.S. Commerce Department in 1977. He presented the young plant to MIT that same year.

"I'll be honest with you, whenever I'm at MIT I always stop to see how the tree is doing," he says. "I've watched it grow from eight inches to 12 feet. It makes me feel good to know that it has flourished and that people enjoy it."

It is a fact, he says, that over the years the tree has become the apple of his eye.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 4, 2006 (download PDF).

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