“After dinner, the weather being warm, we went into the garden and drank tea, under the shade of some apple trees,” wrote Stukeley, in the papers published in 1752 and previously available only to academics. “He told me, he was just in the same situation, as when formerly, the notion of gravitation came into his mind. It was occasion’d by the fall of an apple, as he sat in contemplative mood. Why should that apple always descend perpendicularly to the ground, thought he to himself.”
Keith Moore, the Royal Society’s head of library and archives, said: “Scholars know where the apple story comes from, and clearly it’s an anecdote Newton polished. What we want is for the public to see the manuscript itself. It wasn’t just Newton that polished it, succeeding generations put a gloss on it as well – that story just humanises him just a little bit.”
The manuscript is one of seven documents to go online as part of the Royal Society’s 350th anniversary celebrations. Martin Rees, president of the Royal Society, said other treasures from the archives were also being published online.