When the founders of TRIUMF broke ground on the Main Accelerator Building (then referred to as the Meson Hall), they also planted a single apple tree: a direct descendant from the apple trees that grew on Isaac Newton’s family farm, Woolsthorpe Manor in Lincolnshire, England. These same trees are famous for inspiring Newton’s understanding of one of the four fundamental forces in nature – gravity.
The quest to bring the trees to Canada began with TRIUMF’s first director, Dr. John Warren, a known apple arborist. Discussions began in the late 1960s with England’s National Physical Laboratory who took up the task of obtaining approvals and preparing cuttings for transit.
Once sign-off was received from the United Kingdom’s National Trust, caretakers of the original Newton trees, it took just under a year to receive two saplings which arrived on January 4, 1971.
See Featured Media to learn more about the history of these unique apple trees as told by The Canadian Press.
Now a grove of seven, the oldest of which turned 50 years old in 2018, these trees are imbued with a specific meaning to the laboratory as a representation of the lab’s six-pronged logo, itself inspired by the six magnetic sectors of the TRIUMF main cyclotron – the world’s largest cyclotron of its kind and the main driver for a significant portion of science at the lab.
The seventh tree in the centre represents the machine’s main injection beamline, the start of the particle journey at TRIUMF. The origin story that made these trees famous is also a symbol of what scientific research stands for overall: start with an observation, and ask a deep question. Just as Newton is rumoured to have done watching apples fall from his own trees in 1666.
Today, there are Newton trees on all continents except Antartica.
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