ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — It's a tale as old as time itself: Isaac Newton sat under a tree, got hit in the head with an apple and came up with the theories of gravity and motion.

So, the story itself may or may not be exactly true, The Washington Post notes, but there was an apple tree -- and Newton did spend time watching apples fall from it. This happened during a period of self-isolation.

Isolation, self-quarantine, social distancing. Each suddenly has become a daily part of our lexicon as cases of COVID-19 coronavirus increase across the country.

Avoiding crowds, health officials say, is so vital because it helps to limit the virus' spread.

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The world has been through pandemics before and will again in the future, but it was during Newton's time the Great Plague of London spread across the city. This was 1665 to 1666, when a suspected 100,000 people died out of a population of only 460,000 people, according to Britannica.

Much like institutions are doing today, Trinity College, Cambridge, sent all its students home to continue their studies, the Post said, including Newton.

David Dale wrote in The Sydney Morning Herald that Newton referred to his year away from college as his "annus mirabilis," or wonderful year, because he came up with concepts still in use to this day.

They're all recognizable:

  • An early form of calculus
  • Newton cut a hole in his shutters so only a small beam of light could come through and, using a prism, he studied how white light turned into every color
  • Watching apples fall from that famous tree, he formulated ideas about gravity. Whether or not he actually discovered it, he made substantial contributions to the subject.

Who knows, while many students across the country -- from elementary level on up to college -- study at home, the next Newton could be out there.

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