About 12 years ago, three saplings were grafted out of Sir Isaac Newton’s legendary apple tree and planted in Pune’s sprawling Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA) campus. For years, scientists and academics gathered around the plants — one each near the statues of Galileo, Aryabhatta and Newton — that are ‘descendants’ of the tree from Woolsthrope, England, to chat and discuss their latest theories and research.
Today, one of those trees is dying, thanks to a soil infection. Ironically, it’s the one near Newton’s statue. The saplings had been planted on the initiative of IUCAA founder and eminent scientist Dr Jayant Narlikar.
“It is very difficult to keep apple trees alive in Pune’s weather,” he told HT. Narlikar has now written to Dr Narendra Dadhich, IUCAA director, to spare no effort to keep the tree alive.
Narlikar said the tree was sheltered for almost eight years to keep it out of the searing Deccan Plateau heat. But experts called in by IUCAA pointed out that a soil infection would probably be the end of it.
Narlikar said IUCAA’s apple trees are the only samples of Newton’s apple tree — a falling apple from which inspired him to propound the theory of gravity — in India. “Newton’s apple tree was still alive when he came out with the Law of Gravitation in 1665-66. We will ask for a new sapling from England,” he said.