Newton Knocks Stuffing Out Of Einstein

By cjohnson | November 27, 2005 2:08 am

Well, as I cautioned in the post which reported this tete-a-tete, the result does not matter. However, a result has been announced* and it is in line with the views expressed by Cosmic Variance readers: Newton beat Einstein by a knockout. It was not even close. The Royal Society’s website says:

A total of 1363 members of the public voted online and 345 Royal Society scientists responded to an email questionnaire.

The results showed Newton to be the winner on all counts, although opinion was much closer on the overall contribution to humankind. When asked who made the bigger overall contribution to science the public voted 61.8% for Newton and 38.2% for Einstein and the scientists voted 86.2% for Newton and 13.8% for Einstein.

When asked who made the bigger positive contribution to humankind the public voted extremely closely with 50.1% for Newton and 49.9% for Einstein and the scientists voted 60.9% for Newton and 39.1% for Einstein.

Frankly, I’m surprised, but probably not at what you think:

Sure, I’m a bit surprised that Newton won so overwhelmingly. He should have won, of course, but so easily?

Actually, what I’m really surprised about is that so few people voted! I only announced it on the blog rather late, and we got 39 comments in about four days. Maybe half of those were votes…, the rest, interesting discussion. Thanks-see what we can do together? But the entire UK could only manage 1363 votes?! (Not counting Royal Society members, who are not members of the general public in this discussion) This even after two (three?) weeks, and with it being announced on Radio 4 (and probably BBC TV too) and with interviews and the like? I find it a bit sad that more people did not get involved, to be honest. Is this connected to the lack of people bothering to study physics beyond GCSE level in the UK? I don’t know, but I worry…. (sigh).

Undaunted, however, I think I’ll come up with a few more Celebrity Throwdown matchups for future discussion.


*thanks for the reminder, Ed Copeland.

  • John Morales

    “But the entire UK could only manage 1363 votes?!”

    I voted, but I am Australian, and live in Australia.
    It could be my vote was filtered out, of course…

  • Pražák

    Well, let’s vote which of two numbers 999 and 1000 is bigger. Surely 1000 will win. Are you surprised that 1000 won with almost all votes? 999 probably also deserves some respect and for many purposes it can be considered as equal to 1000.

  • Clifford

    Pražák: Um…. thank you for that insight.


  • janet

    When I told my husband about the celebrity throwdown, his response was that he’d vote for Newton, partly because he thought that was how Einstein would vote. He meant to post a comment to this effect, but I don’t think he ever did.

  • Levi

    How about a math throwdown? It’s generally conceded that the Big Three are Archimedes, Newton (again!), and Gauss. Who’s number four?

  • http://www.anthropic-principle.ORG island

    John Baez?… 😉

  • Aaron



  • Fyodor

    Maths is too boring. I want to know who is the greatest living physicist. I vote for Witten, and yes I do know that MGM is still alive after a fashion.

  • Clifford

    Slow down folks…..this is a thread for another post.


  • Peter Lund



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