Neil deGrasse Tyson Biography

Scientist, Writer, Television Personality(1958–)
Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson hosted NOVA ScienceNow and appeared on such shows as The Daily Show and Real Time with Bill Maher.

Synopsis

Born and raised in New York City, astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson discovered his love for the stars at an early age. After studying at Harvard University, he earned his doctorate from Columbia University in 1991. Tyson went to work for the Hayden Planetarium in 1996 and still serves as its director. He hosted the NOVA ScienceNow series from 2006 to 2011. Tyson remains a popular TV science expert today and has amassed over 3.6 million followers on Twitter. 

Early Life

One of America's best-known scientists, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has spent much of his career sharing his knowledge with others. He has a great talent for presenting complex concepts in a clear and accessible manner.

Tyson grew up in New York City. When he was nine, he took a trip to the Hayden Planetarium at the Museum of Natural History where he got his first taste of star-gazing. Tyson later took classes at the Planetarium and got his own telescope. As a teenager, he would watch the skies from the roof of his apartment building.

An excellent student, Tyson graduated from the Bronx High School of Science in 1976. He then earned a bachelor's degree in Physics from Harvard University and a doctorate in astrophysics from Columbia University in 1991. After spending a few years doing post-doctorate work at Princeton University, Tyson landed a job at the Hayden Planetarium.

Career Highlights

Tyson eventually became the director of the Planetarium and worked on an extensive renovation of the facility, from assisting with its design to helping raise the necessary funds. This $210 million project was completed in 2000, and the revamped site offered visitors a cutting-edge look at astronomy. One of Tyson's most controversial decisions at the time was the removal of Pluto from the display of planets. He classified Pluto as a dwarf planet, which invoked a strong response from some visitors. While some asked for the planet Pluto back, the International Astronomical Union followed Tyson's lead in 2006. The organization officially labeled Pluto as a dwarf planet.

In addition to his work at the planetarium, Tyson has found other ways of improving the nation's scientific literacy. "One of my goals is to bring the universe down to Earth in a way that further excites the audience to want more," he once said. To this end, Tyson has written several books for the general public, including Death by Black Hole and Other Cosmic Quandaries and The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America's Favorite Planet. He has taken his message to the airwaves as well, serving as the host of PBS's NOVA ScienceNow documentary series from 2006 to 2011. In addition to breaking down barriers between scientists and the general public, Tyson has brought diversity to astrophysics. He is one of the few African Americans in his field.

Tyson has also served as a presidential advisor. In 2001, President George W. Bush appointed him to a commission on the future of the aerospace industry. He also served another commission three years later to examine U.S. policy on space exploration.

These days, Tyson is one of the most in-demand science experts. He gives talks across the country and is a media favorite whenever there is an important science issue making news. Tyson is known for his ability to make difficult concepts accessible to every audience, his oratory skills and his sense of humor, which has led to appearances on such shows as Real Time with Bill Maher, The Colbert Report and The Daily Show. He also hosts his own podcast StarTalk Radio, a science-based talk show that features comedic co-hosts.

In 2014, Tyson hosted and was the executive editor of a 13-episode television series entitled COSMOS: A Space-Time Odyssey. The series reboots the classic science documentary, Cosmos. The original version featured Carl Sagan as host and provided a general audience with a greater understanding of the origin of life and our universe. 

Personal Life

Tyson lives in New York City with his wife and their two children. Outside of his scientific endeavors, he is an avid collector of writing instruments.

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