Lincoln the Geek

During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln blew off steam by looking at the stars

Lincoln himself saw the metaphorical opportunities in the cosmos. When he was asked during the Civil War if his faith in the Union was misplaced, he replied with his memory of a Presbyterian deacon he boarded with in 1833. One night, the deacon had knocked on the door, certain that Judgment Day was at hand: The sky seemed to be falling.

Said Lincoln: “I sprang from my bed and rushed to the window and saw the stars falling in great showers; but looking back of them in the heavens I saw the grand old constellations with which I was so well acquainted, fixed and true in their places. Gentlemen, the world did not come to an end then, nor will the Union now.”

It was probably the Leonid meteor shower that had so shaken the deacon.

I was at the ceremony mentioned in the article. Great stories. I don’t think any recent presidents have come a-knockin’, especially now that we’re further away, though Vice President Gore did avail himself of his proximity and visited the nascent clock development lab, and Cheney did make an appearance nearby wielding a giant pair of scissors (but didn’t venture into the more science-y areas)