One of today’s popularizers of science, Neil deGrasse Tyson is a science communicator and known American astrophysicist. Currently, he is the Hayden Planetarium’s Frederick P. Rose director at the Rose Center for Earth and Space. He is also one of the research associates of the American Museum of Natural History’s department of astrophysics. Since he is a popularizer of science, he has appeared in television shows such as NOVA ScienceNow which was aired on PBS from 2006-2011. He is involved in fields such as physical cosmology, astrophysics, and science communication.
Early Years and Academic Background
Born in Manhattan as a middle child with two siblings, Neil deGrasse Tyson grew up around the Bronx. His mother was a gerontologist named Sunchita Feliciano Tyson. His father was a sociologist named Cyril deGrasse Tyson.
Growing up, Neil deGrasse Tyson went to the Bronx High School of Science from 1972-1976 where there was an emphasis on astrophysics then. Apart from being the captain of their wrestling team, he was also the editor-in-chief of “Physical Science” which was the school’s paper. His love for astronomy began at a young age of nine after his first visit to the Hayden Planetarium. In his teen years, he had an obsession for astronomy, and made his mark on the community of astronomy lovers when he gave lectures when he was just fifteen.
So much was his passion for astronomy that even Dr. Carl Sagan of the Cornell University personally sought him out to invite him for undergraduate programs. Neil, however, chose to attend Harvard University where he then had his major in physics while residing at the Currier House. It was in 1980 when he received his Bachelor of Arts in Physics, but during the years in between, he was involved in other activities such as rowing, wrestling, and dancing.
He proceeded with his post graduate endeavors at the University of Texas at Austin. In 1983, he earned his Master of Arts in Astronomy. Two years later, he even bagged the gold medal for the dance team of the University of Texas when he entered a national event for International Latin Ballroom. He furthered his education by earning a Master of Philosophy in astrophysics at Columbia University back in 1989. He had his doctorate in Philosophy of astrophysics two years later.
Career in Science
Because of his fascination for astronomy, his research was largely focused on stellar evolution, cosmology, galactic astronomy, as well as stellar formation. His career in science has included being able to hold position in the University of Maryland, the American Museum of Natural History, the Hayden Planetarium, and Princeton University.
He has also been able to publish several books on subjects related to astronomy. He wrote “Universe,” a column for the Natural History magazine, in 1995. He was even able to coin a word in one of the columns he wrote back in 2002. The word was “Manhattanhenge” and it is used for describing the 2 days in a year when the setting sun would align with the street grids of Manhattan which makes the sunset easily viewed on the clear side streets.
A year before he coined that term, former US President George W. Bush had appointed Neil deGrasse Tyson to be a member of the Commission on the Future of the United States Aerospace Industry. Two years later, he served as a part of the President’s Commission on Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy. This Commission is better known by its more popular nickname which is the “Moon, Mars, and Beyond” commission. After a short while, he was then awarded by NASA their Distinguished Public Service Medal which happens to be the highest honor NASA awards to civilians.
Being a popularizer of science, Neil deGrasse Tyson has also made several appearances on television apart from being a columnist and book author. PBS’s miniseries entitled “Nova” had four parts, all of which Neil hosted back in 2004. Along with Donald Goldsmith, Tyson co-authored another volume for Nova which was called “Origins: Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution.” Later on, another collaboration was done and the fruit was called “400 Years of the Telescope.” This was aired on PBS back in April of 2009. He also hosted NOVA ScienceNow, the PBS program until 2011.
Part of his rich career related to anything and everything about astronomy included his being the Planetary Society’s chairman, president, and vice-president. Because of his love of the universe, his usual cheerful self along with his knowledge and vibrant character, Neil deGrasse Tyson became a regular part of “The Universe” which is a popular series from The History Channel.
Tyson has his own views about spirituality, religion, and science which he included in his essays called “The Perimeter of Ignorance” as well as “Holy Wars.” Both of these works appeared in the Natural History Magazine. Apart from having contributions in the field of astronomy, he also has civic awareness and was even an eyewitness to the attacks on the World Trade Center back in September 11, 2001. He had written a letter about what he had seen that day, and the footage he was able to take was even made part of the documentary released in 2008 which was called “102 Minutes That Changed America.”
Not only is he a man of science, Neil deGrasse Tyson even has collaborations with PETA or the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and he stated that one need not be a rocket scientist to know that showing kindness is a virtue. He even had an interview with PETA where he discussed concepts about the intelligence of both humans and animals. He remains to be an advocate of NASA or the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and hopes for the expansion of their operations.
He has had appearances with Bill Nye in Stargate Atlantis’s “Brain Storm” episode, and even in more popular modern shows such as The Big Bang Theory’s episode called “The Apology Insufficiency.” He has also assisted DC Comics in selecting a star which would best match Superman’s home planet, Krypton. Today, he enjoys being a wine enthusiast along with his scientific endeavors while he lives with his wife and two kids in Lower Manhattan.