Neil deGrasse Tyson on the Staggering Genius of Isaac Newton

Genius — these days, we bandy the term about ever so freely. Every­one’s a genius, includ­ing this 2‑year-old wield­ing a pair of nail clip­pers. Then, Neil deGrasse Tyson comes along and reminds us what a genius real­ly looks like. Asked “Who is the Great­est Physi­cist in His­to­ry,” he responds, Isaac New­ton, with­out any hes­i­ta­tion. New­ton dis­cov­ered the laws of optics, prov­ing that white light is actu­al­ly made up of col­ors, the col­ors of the rain­bow. He mapped out his three laws of motion and the uni­ver­sal laws of grav­i­ta­tion. And then he invent­ed dif­fer­en­tial and inte­gral cal­cu­lus to explain why plan­ets orbit in an ellip­ti­cal fash­ion. Now get ready for the kick­er. This all hap­pened before New­town turned 26. That, my friends, is what genius looks like.

This clip comes from an extend­ed Big Think inter­view, which you can watch in full here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Neil deGrasse Tyson Lists 8 (Free) Books Every Intel­li­gent Per­son Should Read

Sir Isaac Newton’s Papers & Anno­tat­ed Prin­cip­ia Go Dig­i­tal

Neil deGrasse Tyson Deliv­ers the Great­est Sci­ence Ser­mon Ever

Free Physics Cours­es (From Our Col­lec­tion of 700 Free Online Cours­es)

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Comments (4)
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  • TheSecret says:

    Pure genius at such an ear­ly age. It’s amaz­ing, but I have always won­dered how some human beings are capa­ble of such amaz­ing achieve­ments and how the law of action/reaction fits in here.

  • ayo says:

    Peo­ple like New­ton, Ein­stein, Mozart, Pla­to etc. grasped things well beyond what expla­na­tion war­rants. One can’t help but be in utter awe at their inge­nious expla­na­tions and exer­cise of skill.

  • Hop David says:

    No, New­ton did­n’t invent cal­cu­lus on a dare in two months. Build­ing this branch of math­e­mat­ics was the col­lab­o­ra­tive effort of many peo­ple over many years. Fer­mat, Cav­a­lieri, Descartes, Bar­row and oth­ers had laid the foun­da­tions before New­ton came along.

    Tyson’s sto­ry is an often repeat­ed piece of bad his­to­ry.

  • Hop David says:

    Also Edmund Hal­ley asked the famous ques­tion on ellip­ti­cal orbits when New­ton was 41. ‘Muri­ca loves bull shit.

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