May 31, 1819. Today is the birthday of Walt Whitman, poet and journalist, born in West Hills, New York. He’s considered one of America’s most influential poets, and his collection Leaves of Grass is considered a landmark in American literature. Would Whitman himself approve of celebrating his birthday on a science website like EarthSky? After all, he was a poet. But this quote by itself caused us to include him:
This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.
Do these ideas remind you of science? Not yet? Then how about this one?
I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars.
Bottom line: Walt Whitman was born on May 31, 1819.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.