How Social Distancing Led Isaac Newton to Discover Gravity

Look, we know how boring it can get when you’re stuck at home, especially these past few days following the Movement Control Order (MCO).

But did you know practising social distancing can lead to you discovering a hidden talent, or even, say... the theory to gravity?

Just ask sir Isaac Newton!

how social distancing led isaac newton to discover gravityPhoto via newscientist.com

In 1665, London was terrorized by the Bubonic plague (a.k.a the Great Plague) which took the lives of roughly 100,000 residents. That amounts to almost a quarter of the city’s population.

how social distancing led isaac newton to discover gravityPhoto via sciencesource.com

As a response to the increasingly alarming situation, Londoners who could afford it fled the countryside, and many institutions were shut down, including the prestigious Cambridge University. Much like in today’s COVID-19 scenario, the students were told to practice some social-distancing and basically chill at home.

But among those students was 23-year old mathematics student, Isaac Newton, who we later found out throughout history, does not know when to chill.

Given the severity of the Plague, the social distancing period was around 2 years. So what did Isaac do during that extremely spare time of his? A whole lot of reading, studying, and thinking.

If history lessons served us right, Isaac was hanging out by an apple tree when an apple fell to the ground. Most people would’ve just shrugged it off, but he got so fascinated by that falling fruit and studied it so hard, he developed the laws of gravitation.

how social distancing led isaac newton to discover gravityPhoto via artuk.org

Now, being the person who discovered actual gravity would have been amazing enough, right? Well, not for Mr. Newton! He also went on to write revolutionary papers on Optics (stemming from his curiosity on how white light changes into rainbow colors through a glass prism) and Calculus.

how social distancing led isaac newton to discover gravityPhoto via biography.com

His discoveries and academic contributions led to the birth of a scientific revolution and changed the way we see and understand the world around us.

So, no pressure or anything, but what are you going to be doing at home today?

By: Amirah Shariffudin