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DOE Receives Newton’s Gravity Tree

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Earlier this year, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) gifted the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) its very own Sir Isaac Newton apple tree. The tree is cut from the original apple tree from Newton’s birthplace and family home garden at Woolsthorpe Manor in Lincolnshire, England.  

DOE’s “gravity tree” is just one of many cloned from the original and planted all over the world. In the United States there are trees at several universities, including Nebraska, Texas, Pittsburgh, Stanford, Wisconsin, Vanderbilt, West Virginia, William and Mary, Case Western Reserve, Brown, Houghton, Babson College, MIT, and Tufts. There are also trees at the NIST location in Gaithersburg, Maryland, International Park in Washington, D.C., and the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx.  

“We are very excited to be receiving our own slice of history at the DOE,” said Former Under Secretary for Science Paul Dabbar. “We asked for one a few years ago from our friends at NIST when I was serving as Under Secretary. It was cut, grown, and now finally planted.” 

The tale of Newton and the “gravity tree” is known around the world. The story goes that Sir Isaac Newton came up with the idea of gravity when he was sitting in his garden and watched an apple fall to the ground. That experience helped spark Newton’s work on the laws of motion and gravitation that were eventually published in his book, The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy

Despite being nearly destroyed in a storm, the original apple tree still stands at Woolsthorpe Manor and is now more than 350 years old. 

The DOE is filled with countless staff members tackling our nation’s most pressing issues: climate change, infrastructure challenges, and the inequity that arises as a result. Our work starts with a curious mind, a commitment to cutting edge science, and the will to make an impact – the perfect environment to foster our very own “gravity tree” to honor Sir Isaac Newton.  

“We are honored that NIST has gifted the DOE with a Newton tree and are in the process of creating a plaque that provides a brief description of the tree and why it was planted,” said Office of Legacy Management (LM) Historian Eric Boyle. “The tree is a key piece of history and science, and we are happy to be able to nurture DOE’s tree well into the future.” 

Office of Legacy Management Director Carmelo Melendez commented that he, too, was thankful for the gift, and as the Office responsible for long-term stewardship for the Department, it would be symbolic to have a Newton tree at a location like the Fernald Preserve in Ohio.  

 “We have begun the process of requesting a Newton tree, as well.” Melendez said. “We are hopeful that we will be able to attain one in the next few years.” 

DOE’s “gravity tree” is planted at DOE headquarters in Washington, D.C near the James V. Forrestal Building.

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