15 February 2006

Great Minds Think Alike

Joy in Indiana has a question about academic speakers: I would be curious who you see as academics who can actually distill complicated topics in a way that even someone completely new to an area of study can understand them.

Thank you for the question, Joy. This is an interesting topic, and one I had never really thought of before now. Here, after much thought, are two:

Astronomer Carl Sagan (1934-1996), the truly great mind who also knew how to make something easy to follow. Putting aside the "billions and billions of stars" parody, this man knew his stuff. His television series "Cosmos" made science and space accessible for millions of mere mortals.

Historian Michael Grant (1914-2004). Among many other things, he was a great author of more than 50 books on classical history -- among them "The Classical Greeks" (1989), "The Etruscans" (1981), and my personal favorite "The Rise of the Greeks" (1989). The Greeks, Romans, Etruscans, et al contributed so much to our modern civilization, their histories can be overwhelming; yet, Grant knew so much and was able to whittle it all down in a way that anyone could follow. If you have any interest in classical history, his books are must reads.

I would love to hear from you: Who do you think is a good academic speaker or presenter?

1 comment:

Mass Bradley said...

I'm not kidding when I say the best "academic presenter" I ever encountered was my Grandma Pat, who taught me long division in the summer between my 5th and 6th grades.
She was charismatic, patient, and made the lessons seem like fun, not work.
If you bar such nepotism, my next answer would be another PBS Guy: Bill Moyers. He can distill the most complex abstract into an unfussy little epigram like no one I know...