“Abraham Lincoln,” by Matthew Brady. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
“Abraham Lincoln,” by Matthew Brady. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Neil deGrasse Tyson Pays Homage to Abe Lincoln, the Science Guy

“Abraham Lincoln,” by Matthew Brady. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
“Abraham Lincoln,” by Matthew Brady. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

When somebody says “Abraham Lincoln,” what comes to mind? Log cabins? Assassination? The Gettysburg Address? What about science? That’s right: Science was an important, but underappreciated, part of Lincoln’s legacy. Neil deGrasse Tyson shares details in an editorial published today in the journal Science.  

The beloved astrophysicist was approached in 2013 in advance of the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation, which asked him to compose a 272-word speech inspired by the 272-word Gettysburg Address.

Tyson saw the project as an opportunity to shine a light on the 16th president’s overlooked accomplishments. His speech, entitled “The Seedbed,” celebrated Lincoln’s contributions to America’s scientific community. "I offer the speech as a reminder of America’s science legacy; and as an appeal to advance all that this legacy can do for the nation’s future," Tyson writes.

Here's the full text, via Science

One and a half centuries ago, Civil War divided these United States of America. Yet in its wake, we would anneal as one nation, indivisible. During the bloody year of his Gettysburg Address, President Lincoln chartered the National Academy of Sciences—comprised of fifty distinguished American researchers whose task was then, as now, to advise Congress and the Executive Branch of all ways the frontier of science may contribute to the health, wealth, and security of its residents. As a young nation, just four score and seven years old, we had plucked the engineering fruits of the Industrial Revolution that transformed Europe, but Americans had yet to embrace the meaning of science to society.

Now with more than two thousand members, the National Academy encompasses dozens of fields undreamt of at the time of Lincoln’s charter. Quantum Physics, discovered in the 1920s, now drives nearly one third of the world’s wealth, forming the basis for our computer revolution in the creation, storage, and retrieval of information. And as we continue to warm our planet, Climatology may be our only hope to save us from ourselves. 

During the centennial of its charter, President Kennedy addressed the Academy membership, noting, “The range and depth of scientific achievement in this room constitutes the seedbed of our nation’s future.”

In this, the twenty-first century, innovations in science and technology form the primary engines of economic growth. While most remember honest Abe for war and peace, and slavery and freedom, the time has come to remember him for setting our Nation on a course of scientifically enlightened governance, without which we all may perish from this Earth.

Lincoln had plenty of motivation to get American science moving. The nature of warfare was changing, and it would take new technology to keep up. Honest Abe was no stranger to science himself: He once devised and patented a system for getting pontoon boats through shallow waters, making him the only president to hold a patent. Years later, presidents Coolidge and Bush (the younger) would follow his example, calling on the academy for evidence-based advice on military preparedness and climate change, respectively. Learn more in the video below. 

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NASA, Getty Images
Watch Apollo 11 Launch
Vice President Spiro Agnew and former President Lyndon Johnson view the liftoff of Apollo 11
Vice President Spiro Agnew and former President Lyndon Johnson view the liftoff of Apollo 11
NASA, Getty Images

Apollo 11 launched on July 16, 1969, on its way to the moon. In the video below, Mark Gray shows slow-motion footage of the launch (a Saturn V rocket) and explains in glorious detail what's going on from a technical perspective—the launch is very complex, and lots of stuff has to happen just right in order to get a safe launch. The video is mesmerizing, the narration is informative. Prepare to geek out about rockets! (Did you know the hold-down arms actually catch on fire after the rocket lifts off?)

Apollo 11 Saturn V Launch (HD) Camera E-8 from Spacecraft Films on Vimeo.

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Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma
Utility Workers May Have Found One of Rome’s First Churches
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

The remains of what may have been one of Rome’s earliest Christian churches were accidentally discovered along the Tiber River during construction, The Local reports. The four-room structure, which could have been built as early as the 1st century CE, was unearthed by electrical technicians who were laying cables along the Ponte Milvio.

The newly discovered structure next to the river
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

No one is sure what to make of this “archaeological enigma shrouded in mystery,” in the words of Rome’s Archaeological Superintendency. Although there’s no definitive theory as of yet, experts have a few ideas.

The use of colorful African marble for the floors and walls has led archaeologists to believe that the building probably served a prestigious—or perhaps holy—function as the villa of a noble family or as a Christian place of worship. Its proximity to an early cemetery spawned the latter theory, since it's common for churches to have mausoleums attached to them. Several tombs were found in that cemetery, including one containing the intact skeleton of a Roman man.

Marble flooring
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

A tomb
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma1

The walls are made of brick, and the red, green, and beige marble had been imported from Sparta (Greece), Egypt, and present-day Tunisia, The Telegraph reports.

As The Local points out, it’s not all that unusual in Rome for archaeological discoveries to be made by unsuspecting people going about their day. Rome’s oldest aqueduct was found by Metro workers, and an ancient bath house and tombs were found during construction on a new church.

[h/t The Local]

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