Thursday, June 30, 2005

Somewhere Oprah the rainbow

I must live on a different planet than my fellow Americans.

In a poll to choose the Top Ten Americans who ever lived, millions of respondents put Ronald Reagan in first place. Ronald Reagan!

But then Oprah Winfrey and Elvis Presley made the list too. In fact, Oprah beat out Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who squeaked in at tenth. George W. Bush made the list, but not Thomas Jefferson, another sure sign of the dumbing down of America.

George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King were properly included. But no scientist, inventor, artist, writer, poet, or person noted for intellectual achievement. Yes, Ben Franklin made fifth place, but you can be sure it wasn't for of his important "Experiments and Observations on Electricity," which most Americans have never heard of.

By contrast, a similar Top Ten poll in Britain included the engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel and scientists Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin. A French poll listed Louis Pasteur and Marie Curie, and Germans picked Albert Einstein and Johann Gutenberg.

On Monday I will reveal my choice for the greatest American scientist of all time. Can you guess who it will be? (We will generously allow Einstein to the Germans, although they didn't want him when they had him.)