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Isaac Newton's apple trees continue to flourish at UBC



On a cold sunny December day, Jean-Michel Putisso stopped to admire six apple trees, for which he had once fought to save.

Putissu arrived in Vancouver in 1972, when the trees were simple saplings on the campus of the University of British Columbia. The trees planted outside the TRIUMF Physics Laboratory are descendants of the same tree under which, as they say, Sir Isaac Newton sat, reflecting on gravity.

Poetissu, an honored explorer from TRIUMF, said that trees “grew happily” until the mid-1990s, when condominium developers wanted a direct path from campus to homes. The trees were in danger of being fired.

“No one (involved in the development) cared too much about Newton’s trees,” he said. "For them, they were on the way."

Isaac Newton lived from 1643 to 1727. (Georgios Kollidas / Shutterstock.)

According to him, it took a campaign to convince the university president to intervene and save the carousel, where trees were planted.

Now they are almost 50 years old, the trees are covered with buds, which are fattened in winter before they bear fruit.

Poutissu said that he had not tasted apples for a very long time and did not remember their exact taste.

“It's not exactly like the Macintosh, but don't touch me,” he said, laughing.

Journey from England

Trees began traveling around the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s.

Tree transplants — sent from a university in England where Newton worked — arrived in Vancouver in 1971. Correspondence between UBC and England suggests that 50 centimeters of snow covered Vancouver upon the arrival of grafts

Two cuttings were grafted, and now there are six trees on the TRIUMP campus.

Today, the National Trust in the UK retains the original apple tree at Woolsthorp Manor, where Newton considered the laws of gravity. The tree is called Kent Flower, a traditional variety that produces apples of various sizes.

In 1820, a storm struck the original tree, but it survived, and its legacy continued to grow.

Today, the National Trust in the UK is the custodian of the original apple tree at Woolsthorp Manor, where Newton considered the laws of gravity. (Lucy Young / AP / Canadian Press)

The National Trust says there are many universities featuring clones of the original tree. It is not known how the idea to send trees around the world.

"It was probably spread by word of mouth between universities," the National Foundation said in a statement.

In addition to the University of British Columbia, there are also Newton apple trees at York University in Toronto. Thanks to York professor Robert Prince, an astronaut who was one of Prince’s students, he was able to take tree seeds with him on a space flight in 2006.


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