CSIRO logo


At CSIRO we shape the future. We do this by using science to solve real issues. Our research makes a difference to industry, people and the planet.

We ask, we seek, we solve. We are CSIRO.

Find out more

CSIRO logo Show CSIRO menu

The Newton Tree

Newton tree succumbs to Clayton’s gravitational pull!

So, the story goes that in 1666 a young Isaac Newton, while sat contemplating under an apple tree in his family’s Lincolnshire garden, was hit on the head by one of its falling fruit. Whether he was actually conked, or just witnessed the falling apple, is open for debate. Regardless, the experience triggered Newton’s consideration of gravitational forces and eventually led to his famous Law of Universal Gravitation.

Flash forward to 1977, and researcher in Solar Energy at Highett, Bob Dunkle, makes a donation to CSIRO of a little apple tree that he has successfully grafted from a cutting of a tree at Monash University – a direct descendant of the ‘Flower of Kent’ tree that inspired Isaac’s epiphany.

For 39 years, tucked into a quiet and unassuming patch of grass at CSIRO’s Highett site between building’s 207 and 208, the little apple tree grew to provide shade and fruit for those wandering past.

Dean Harris, a minerals researcher at Highett, said that he must have walked by the tree a million times.

“It produces nice apples when in season, I’ve eaten many!” he said.

On Friday 21 August the Newton tree was relocated to its new home at CSIRO’s Clayton site, where it is happily budding its new spring growth.

The gravity of moving an apple tree

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree…

The arrival of the Highett Newton tree at Clayton makes it the second Newton tree in the precinct, with the tree from which it  was grafted still thriving in the Kenneth Hunt garden near the Engineering Faculty buildings just over the road at Monash University.

In addition to the relocated tree at Clayton, CSIRO can boast Newton trees at its Parkes and Waurn Ponds sites.

There are plans for a commemorative morning tea after the tree has had time to settle in a bit, and we’re also hopeful of celebrating Pi day, one March 14 in the future, with an apple Pi bake-off using our very own Newton apples!