At each stop on the walk there will be a story and an activity. Worksheets for children to use during the walk need to be downloaded and printed off at school and brought with you.
Isaac Newton (1642–1727)
• Stand just outside the main gate of Trinity College, and point out the apple tree (in the grass on the right, as you are looking at the gate).
This tree is very famous! It doesn’t look very big, but it is actually grown from a much older tree – a tree that changed the course of history! It’s an apple tree.
I wonder if anyone knows its story?
The original tree is the one that Isaac Newton was sitting underneath when an apple fell on his head and he had an amazing idea about how gravity worked – or so the story goes. Gravity is a pulling force. If you throw a ball into the air it will fall back down. This is gravity pulling the ball back to the ground. Without gravity on Earth everything would float away, including us!
The original apple tree wasn’t in Cambridge, but this one has been planted here because Isaac was a student and then a professor in this college. We are going into the college to learn a bit more about him.
• Go through the main entrance to Trinity College and across the court to the chapel to finish off the story (it is on the right of the court, but you have stay within the cordoned area to get there, so follow the path straight ahead to the middle of the court, turn right and follow the path to the edge of the court, and then right again to get to the chapel entrance). Go inside stand beside the statue of Isaac Newton (on your left as you go in).
This is Isaac Newton. Doesn’t he look an important figure? Newton’s new theory wasn’t that apples fall to earth because of gravity. Newton could connect what he saw happening on earth to what is happening to the planets in outer space. He suggested that planets are always moving towards the sun for the same reason that objects fall to the earth – gravity.
• Show the portrait of Newton – Resource Card D
In those days it was fashionable for men to shave off their hair and wear a wig.
• Show the long grey wig – Artefact 4
I wonder if anyone would like to try it on? You don’t need to shave your hair off!
Isaac Newton wrote a very famous book called the Principia Mathematica.
• Show the Latin edition of the ‘Principia’ – Artefact 5
This book is full of mathematical explanations, but Isaac didn’t just think about maths and how the universe worked, and he wasn’t just a scientist. He had ideas about all kinds of things, like religion (how God created the world in harmony), and music (how the seven notes in music matched the seven colours in the rainbow). He even wrote books about the Bible. He also had a shed behind this chapel where he often stayed up all night doing lots of experiments. He was an alchemist – someone who wanted to work out how to turn ordinary metal into gold. Alchemists were very secretive about what they did. Newton designed his scientific equipment himself, and wrote more than a million words about alchemy in his notebooks, but his work was not discovered until the twentieth century. Now people know how important it was. Alchemy was actually how the science that we call chemistry started.
Newton also made a big contribution to another branch of science called optics. When he was a young man, Isaac went for a walk along the river out of Cambridge to visit the Fair on Stourbridge Common. It was the biggest fair in Europe, and there was a lot to see.
• Show the prism – Artefact 6
On one stall Isaac bought a piece of glass a bit like this.
Can anyone tell me what it is called?
Can you see what the statue of Isaac Newton is holding?
He’s holding a prism because it helped him make an important discovery.
When you hold a prism up to the light it sparkles, and you can sometimes see lots of different colours in it. It was being sold at the fair because it was so pretty; it was an ornament. But Isaac was interested in how it worked. He studied it, and had one of his great ideas that changed science. Isaac worked out that light looks white, but is made up from lots of different colours. He hung the prism up in the window of his room in the sunshine, and made a huge rainbow on the wall.
• Reconstruct the prism experiment by shining a torch (artefact 6b) onto the prism to create a rainbow effect
• Show Resource Card E – illustration from Newton’s notebook
• Show the picture of Newton’s telescope – Resource Card F
Modern telescopes such as the Hubble space telescope use the same idea!
Isaac Newton used his telescope to look at the world, and look out into space. He couldn’t see as much as we can, but he could see the wonderful universe, which he believed God has created. He really enjoyed seeing how everything fits together and in harmony.
Make a colour wheel
Isaac Newton designed the colour wheel based on the light spectrum. He linked the seven colours of the rainbow to the seven notes of the musical scale. He wanted to show how perfectly God had created the world.
• Show the activity card with a picture of Newton’s colour wheel.
The way the colours are set out around the wheel started artists thinking about how colours work together. Sometimes colours on opposite sides of the wheel are called complementary colours, because they look good together.
• Look at the diagram on the worksheet for this activity.
On the inside wheel use your coloured pencils to colour in the seven colours of the rainbow – see if you can remember the correct order!
Can anyone remember a rhyme to remind you what the colours are?
(e.g. Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain)
On the next wheel, write or draw something you have seen in nature that matches each of the colours.
On the outside wheel write the name of the colour.
• Show a picture painted by Pablo Picasso during his blue period – artefact 7
I wonder why Picasso used so much blue? What was it helping him to say through his painting?
If you have time:
Think about a colour you really like. How does seeing it make you feel? Can using colour help you to express yourself?