Der Beginn der modernen Kosmologie kann bei einer der wohl bekanntesten Legenden der Wissenschaftsgeschichte verortet werden. Überliefert wurde diese Geschichte von William Stukeley der 1752 in MEMOIRS OF Sr. ISAAC NEWTON'S by life folgendes schrieb:
on 15 April 1726 I paid a visit to Sr. Isaac, at his lodgings in Orbels buildings, Kensington: din'd with him, & spent the whole day with him, alone. I acquainted him with my intentions of retiring into the country; & had pitchd on Grantham. I had a brother there in business, who had a family. he had been apprentice to Mr Chrichloe apothecary there, a great acquaintance, & schoolfellow of Sr. Isaacs.
Sr. Isaac expressed an approbation of my purpose: & especially for Grantham, wh is near the place of his nativity: & where he went to the grammar school. he said, he had frequently thought of spending the last of his days, in that very place: and charg'd me, that if that house to the east of the ch, cd now be purchasd at any reasonable price, that I shd do it immediately in his name, & he wd answer the demand. that house had belong'd to the family of the Skipwith's. he said his old acquaintance Mrs Vincent lived <15r> there & a few more, whom he knew.
after dinner, the weather being warm, we went into the garden, & drank thea under the shade of some appletrees, only he, & myself. amidst other discourse, he told me, he was just in the same situation, as when formerly, the notion of gravitation came into his mind. "why shd that apple always descend perpendicularly to the ground," thought he to him self: occasion'd by the fall of an apple, as he sat in a comtemplative mood: "why shd it not go sideways, or upwards? but constantly to the earths centre? assuredly, the reason is, that the earth draws it. there must be a drawing power in matter. & the sum of the drawing power in the matter of the earth must be in the earths center, not in any side of the earth. therefore dos this earth|apple| fall perpendicularly, or toward the center. if matter thus draws matter; it must be in proportion of its quantity. therefore the apple draws the earth, as well as the earth draws the apple."
That there is a power like that we here call gravity wh extends its self thro' the universe < text from f 15r resumes > & thus by degrees, he began to apply this property of gravitation to the motion of the earth, & of the heavenly bodys: to consider thir distances, their magnitudes, thir periodical revolutions: to find out, that this property, conjointly <16r> with a progressive motion impressed on them in the beginning, perfectly solv'd thir circular courses; kept the planets from falling upon one another, or dropping all together into one center. & thus he unfolded the Universe. this was the birth of those amazing discoverys, whereby he built philosophy on a solid foundation, to the astonishmt. of all Europe.
Quelle: The Newton Project. Hervorhebungen hinzugefügt.