One of my last visits in England in August was Woolsthorpe Manor House which is Newton’s birthplace. We had to take the flight in the afternoon but we got up early and we drove until we arrived to this sacred place!
Of course almost all the objects of the house are reproductions of the original ones which were used by Newton and his family. There also is a room dedicated to explaining his life and scientific contribution…
…where it’s possible to find a lock of his hair:
The room where he was born is absolutely reconstructed and a plaque remembers us the great date:
There is the famous apple tree outside:
A tree with a place in history
Woolsthorpe is the home of the Flower of Kent tree connected with Newton’s story of how he discovered the law of gravitation -a story told by Newton himself to William Stukeley, one of his biographers, in 1726:
“…after dinner, the weather being warm, we went into the garden, & drank tea under the shade of some appletrees, only he, & myself. amidst other discourse, he told me, he was just in the same situation, as when formerly, the notion of gravitation came into his mind. “Why should that apple always descend perpendicularly to the ground,” thought he to himself: occasion’d by the fall of an apple, as he sat in a contemplative mood: “why should it not go sideways, or upwards? but constantly to the earths centre? assuredly, the reason is, that the earth draws it…”
The tree adquired a local reputation and after Newton’s death people would make the pilgrimage to the Manor House and to see the tree in the orchard. In 1820 the tree blew down after a storm. Sketches were made of it and the broken wood was used to make snuff boxes and small trinkets. Fortunately the tree remained rooted and re-grew strongly -this is the tree we have now.
There are descendants of the tree planted throughout the world, including at Trinity College, Cambridge, at the Massachussets Institute of Technology in the United States, and at Tianjin University in China. There are also several in this orchars, so that when the tree comes to the natural end of its life there will be descendants to carry on the story.
In another house there is a little exhibition about Newton’s experiments and discoveries:
There is also little information about other contemporany scientists like Leibniz, Hooke or Flamsteed:
Finally, there is a sundial in the orchard (of course!):
Crema is a little city near Milan. I must recognize that I wouldn’t have visited it if I had traveled to Lombardia by myself. But I was lucky once again! It’s very beautiful discovering Mathematics by chance when it wasn’t expected. I was in Crema with five of my secondary school students and two of my colleagues because of a Comenius project. We were walking through the beautiful streets of the center of the city and we found this house with a plaque which says that it is the birthplace of Giovanni Vailati (“distinguished mathematician and philosopher”):
Giovanni Vailati was born in this house in April 24, 1863. After going to school in Monza and Lodi, he entered the University of Turin when he was 17 y.o. to study the Engineering degree. He met Giuseppe Peano (Cuneo, 27/08/1858 – Turin, 04.20.1932) there and because of him, Vaitali found his passion in Mathematics, so he attended Mathematics lessons for four years after graduating in Engineering in 1884. In the period 1892-95 he was appointed to second assistant of Peano in Turin and in 1896 he became assistant of Vito Volterra (Ancona, 03/05/1860 – Rome, 11/10/1940). During this time he taught History of Mechanics at the University and worked on the History of Mathematics and Logic, much influenced by Peano. In 1899 he decided to follow his career as a teacher in other Italian cities as Siracussa, Bari, Como and Florence.
His recognition was twofold. First, his contributions in the field of Philosophy led him to occupy a position of prestige in the organizing committee of the first International Congress of Philosophy. In addition, he studied the works of Plato, Euclid and Saccheri, among others, as well as made important contributions in the field of Logic
Location: Vailati’s house (map)