An Animated Neil deGrasse Tyson Gives an Eloquent Defense of Science in 272 Words, the Same Length as The Gettysburg Address

Astro­physi­cist Neil deGrasse Tyson, the most promi­nent pub­lic defend­er of sci­ence edu­ca­tion and fund­ing, fre­quent­ly comes in for some good-natured rib­bing for his genial pedantryascen­sion to Carl Sagan’s unof­fi­cial spokesman­ship, and down­grad­ing of the beloved Plu­to from plan­et sta­tus. But he takes it all in stride. As anoth­er sci­ence com­mu­ni­ca­tor, Phil Plate the “Bad Astronomer,” has writ­ten, “The man is bril­liant, charm­ing, a pil­lar of sci­ence edu­ca­tion, and a glut­ton for pun­ish­ment. But I think he secret­ly rev­els in it.” If you fol­low Tyson’s Twit­ter account and watch him engage with cranks, or if you’ve seen him in any of the hun­dreds of pub­lic debates and pan­els he attends, it seems he more than rev­els in it; he’s total­ly in his ele­ment, so to speak, pub­licly mod­el­ing the mix of con­fi­dence, humil­i­ty, and curios­i­ty that dri­ves sci­ence for­ward.

In the video above, Tyson dares to try and fill the shoes of anoth­er great communicator—and no, I don’t mean Ronald Rea­gan, but the pres­i­dent whose most famous speech Charles Sum­n­er called “a mon­u­men­tal act.” And though Abra­ham Lin­coln was not near­ly as com­fort­able in front of an audi­ence as Tyson is, Lin­col­n’s Get­tys­burg Address set the bar for how to get a point across with the max­i­mum amount of elo­quence and min­i­mum of redun­dan­cy and ram­bling. Can Tyson deliv­er the goods like Lin­coln did with only 272 words to work with? Is the attempt to “reply” to the “Get­tys­burg Address” an act of hubris or the ulti­mate trib­ute? Decide for your­self as you lis­ten to Tyson’s April, 2015 accep­tance speech at the Nation­al Acad­e­my of Sci­ence for the Pub­lic Wel­fare Medal, the Acad­e­my’s “most pres­ti­gious award.”

Tyson’s speech has been enhanced with a dra­mat­ic ani­ma­tion and sound effects for a tech­no­log­i­cal impact Lin­coln nev­er could have achieved, though by most accounts he did­n’t need it. Not a solemn occa­sion like Get­tys­burg, the awards cer­e­mo­ny nonethe­less called for at least a lit­tle pomp, as well as some his­to­ry. Tyson points out that “dur­ing the bloody year of his Get­tys­burg Address, Pres­i­dent Lin­coln char­tered the Nation­al Acad­e­my of Sci­ences.” For more of that sto­ry, see the short video above, where you’ll learn, among oth­er things, that Lin­coln was the first and only Amer­i­can pres­i­dent to hold a patent on a sci­en­tif­ic inven­tion.

via Bill Gates

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Neil deGrasse Tyson Pon­ders the Big Ques­tion “Does the Uni­verse Have a Pur­pose” in a Sim­ple Ani­ma­tion

Free: Down­load Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Short Course, The Inex­plic­a­ble Uni­verse, in Audio or Video For­mat

Neil deGrasse Tyson Puts Bill Gates’ Wealth into Fun­ny Per­spec­tive

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness


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