Who Is Neil deGrasse Tyson?
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.
After studying at Harvard University, he earned his doctorate from Columbia University in 1991. Tyson went to work for the Hayden Planetarium in 1996 before becoming its director. Additionally, he has served as host of NOVA ScienceNow and the StarTalk Radio podcast. Tyson remains a popular TV science expert today and has amassed over 13 million followers on Twitter.
Early Life and Education
Born in New York City on October 5, 1958, Tyson discovered his love for the stars at an early age. 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.
Director of the Hayden Planetarium
Tyson eventually became the director of the Hayden Planetarium and worked on an extensive renovation of the facility, assisting with its design and helping raise the necessary funds. The $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.
Host of 'NOVA ScienceNow'
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. Tyson has taken his message to the airwaves, serving as the host of 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.
Presidential Advisor to George Bush
Tyson has also served as a presidential advisor. In 2001, President George W. Bush appointed the astrophysicist to a commission on the future of the aerospace industry. Tyson also served another commission three years later to examine U.S. policy on space exploration.
Celebrity Scientist & TV Appearances
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 in the 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.
'StarTalk' Podcasts & TV
In 2009, Tyson began hosting the podcast StarTalk Radio, a science-based talk show that features comedic co-hosts. Its success fueled the launch of a StarTalk TV show in 2015, as well as the spinoff podcasts StarTalk All-Stars and StarTalk Playing with Science.
In 2014, Tyson hosted and served as the executive editor of a 13-episode television series entitled Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey. The series rebooted 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.
Tyson has written several books for the general public, including Death by Black Hole and Other Cosmic Quandaries (2006) and The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America's Favorite Planet (2009). After breaking down complex scientific concepts in Astrophysics for People in a Hurry (2017), he followed with a collection of his responses to fans and critics in Letters from an Astrophysicist (2019).
Sexual Misconduct Allegations
In late 2018, the religion and spirituality website Patheos reported that three women had accused the popular astrophysicist of sexual misconduct, with one claiming she had been drugged and raped by Tyson back in 1984. Tyson responded with a lengthy Facebook post in which he disputed each woman's account of events and said he welcomed further investigations. In August 2019, the Fox and National Geographic networks, which air Cosmos and StarTalk, released a joint statement that said they had concluded investigations and would continue to feature Tyson's programs.
Tyson lives in New York City with his wife, Alice Young, who holds a Ph.D. in mathematical physics. The couple has two kids, Miranda and Travis.
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