Just saying…

Neil deGrasse Tyson seems to have a real talent for very sloppy history of science. He pontificates on history of science topics without taking the trouble to check his facts. On Christmas day to acknowledge the birthday of Isaac Newton he tweeted the following:

On this day long ago, a child was born who, by age 30, would transform the world. Happy Birthday Isaac Newton b. Dec 25, 1642

Now, you would think that an astrophysicist would be able to cope with simple arithmetic but it seems to be beyond NdGT’s mental grasp. Newton, as he points out, was born in 1642. The contribution to science that he made that “would transform the world” can only refer to his Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica and, as any historian of science could have told NdGT, this was published in 1687. Applying the subtraction algorithm, which most of us learnt in primary school, 1687 – 1642 = 45 and not thirty. Even being generous, as this is a fifty per cent error in the stated age at which Newton “would transform the world” we cannot really award NdGT anything but an F for this incredibly sloppy piece of work. Do try to do better next time Neil!


Filed under History of Astronomy, History of science, Newton

11 responses to “Just saying…

  1. He’s an astrophysicist. By their standards gettting a measurement within the right order of magnitude is really close.

  2. naNiNomynous

    I may remember this incorrectly, but: was there not a big delay in the publishing of the Principia? NdGT may be referring to the discovery rather than the publication. Just sayin’ …

  3. Just curious … but off on a bit of a tangent …
    Was Newton’s birthday really celebrated as Christmas in 1642? (Did his mother think of that day as Christmas?)
    The calendar was, I think, the Julian calendar, which explains why some give his birthday as Jan 4, 1643 (Gregorian calendar.) When was Christmas celebrated in Protestant England in 1642?

  4. Has Neil deGrasse Tyson ever responded to any of your posts or is he totally unaware of his countless errors?

  5. Jeff in Calgary

    I think it is clear that he was trying to make a comparison to Jesus. The same words are often used to describe him; however most would say 32 or 33 years of age for Jesus, hence why NdGT felt it was important to keep the age low in order to outdo Jesus.
    The fact is, if you believe in what the Bible says, these two are both remarkable characters, but for very different reasons, and they can not really be compared.

  6. Pingback: Preach truth – serve up myths. | The Renaissance Mathematicus

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