|(1958-10-05) October 5, 1958 (age 55)Manhattan, New York City, United States|
|Manhattan, New York City, United States|
|Astrophysics, physical cosmology, science communication|
|Hayden Planetarium, PBS, Planetary Society|
|Columbia University(MPhil, PhD)University of Texas at Austin(MA)Harvard University(AB)The Bronx High School of Science|
|Isaac Newton, Carl Sagan, Richard Feynman, Albert Einstein|
|NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal|
Neil deGrasse Tyson (//; born October 5, 1958) is an American astrophysicist, author, and science communicator. He is currently the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space and a research associate in the department of astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History. From 2006 to 2011, he hosted the educational science television show NOVA ScienceNow on PBS and has been a frequent guest on The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, Real Time with Bill Maher, and Jeopardy!. Tyson is the host of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, a sequel to Carl Sagan's Cosmos: A Personal Voyage television series starting March 2014.
Tyson was born as the second of three children in the borough of Manhattan in New York City, and was raised in the Bronx. His mother, Sunchita Marie (Feliciano) Tyson, was a gerontologist, and his father, Cyril deGrasse Tyson, was a sociologist, human resource commissioner for the New York City mayor John Lindsay, and the first Director of Harlem Youth Opportunities Unlimited.
From kindergarten through high school Tyson attended public schools in New York City, all in The Bronx, which included PS 36, PS 81, Riverdale Kingsbridge Academy (MS 141), and the Bronx High School of Science (1972–76) where he was captain of the wrestling team, and editor-in-chief of the school's Physical Science Journal. Tyson had an abiding interest in astronomy since he was nine years old, following his visit to Pennsylvania and seeing the stars, saying "it looks like the Hayden Planetarium". He obsessively studied astronomy in his teens, and eventually even gained some fame in the astronomy community by giving lectures on the subject at the age of fifteen. Tyson recalls that "so strong was that imprint [of the night sky] that I'm certain that I had no choice in the matter, that in fact, the universe called me."
Interestingly, when I applied to Cornell, my application dripped of my passion for the study and research of the Universe. Somehow the admissions office brought my application to the attention of the late Dr. Sagan, and he actually took the initiative and care to contact me. He was very inspirational and a most powerful influence. Dr. Sagan was as great as the universe, an effective mentor.
Tyson chose to attend Harvard University, however, where he majored in physics and lived in Currier House. He was a member of the crew team during his freshman year, but returned to wrestling, eventually lettering in his senior year. In addition to wrestling and rowing in college, he was active in dance, in styles including jazz, ballet, Afro-Caribbean, and Latin Ballroom. Tyson earned a Bachelor of Arts in physics from Harvard in 1980 and began his graduate work at the University of Texas at Austin; he was unable to complete his Ph.D. because his thesis committee voted to dissolve itself and he received a Master of Arts in astronomy in 1983. In 1985, he won a gold medal with the University of Texas dance team at a national tournament in the International Latin Ballroom style. He was a lecturer at the University of Maryland from 1986-1987. In 1988, Tyson was accepted into the astronomy graduate program at Columbia University, where he earned a Master of Philosophy in astrophysics in 1989, and a Doctor of Philosophy in astrophysics in 1991 under the supervision of Professor R. Michael Rich (now at UCLA). Rich obtained funding to support Tyson's doctoral research from NASA and the ARCS foundation  enabling Tyson to attend international meetings in Italy, Switzerland, Chile, and South Africa  and to hire students to help him with data reduction.  In the course of his thesis work, he observed using the 0.91 m telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, where he obtained images for the Calán/Tololo Supernova Survey helping to further their work in establishing Type Ia Supernovae as standard candles. These papers comprised part of the discovery papers of the use of Type Ia supernovae to measure distances, which led to the improved measurement of the Hubble constant and discovery of dark energy in 1998. He was 18th author on a paper with Brian Schmidt, a future winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics, in the study of the measurement of distances to Type II Supernovae and the Hubble constant.
During his thesis work at Columbia University, Tyson became acquainted with Princeton Prof. David Spergel at Princeton University, who visited Columbia University in the course of collaborating with his thesis advisor on the Galactic bulge.  Tyson was a postdoctoral research fellow at Princeton University from 1991 to 1994 and it was during this period that the project to renovate the Hayden Planetarium was conceived.
Tyson's research has focused on observations in cosmology, stellar evolution, galactic astronomy, bulges, and stellar formation. He has held numerous positions at institutions including the University of Maryland, Princeton University, the American Museum of Natural History, and Hayden Planetarium.
Tyson has written a number of popular books on astronomy. In 1995, he began to write the "Universe" column for Natural History magazine. In a column he authored for the magazine in 2002, Tyson coined the term "Manhattanhenge" to describe the two days annually on which the evening sun aligns with the cross streets of the street grid in Manhattan, making the sunset visible along unobstructed side streets. Tyson's column also influenced his work as a professor with The Great Courses.
In 2001, US President George W. Bush appointed Tyson to serve on the Commission on the Future of the United States Aerospace Industry and in 2004 to serve on the President's Commission on Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy, the latter better known as the "Moon, Mars, and Beyond" commission. Soon afterward he was awarded the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal, the highest civilian honor bestowed by NASA.
In 2004, he hosted the four-part Origins miniseries of PBS's Nova, and, with Donald Goldsmith, co-authored the companion volume for this series, Origins: Fourteen Billion Years Of Cosmic Evolution. He again collaborated with Goldsmith as the narrator on the documentary 400 Years of the Telescope, which premiered on PBS in April 2009.
As director of the Hayden Planetarium, Tyson bucked traditional thinking in order to keep Pluto from being referred to as the ninth planet in exhibits at the center. Tyson has explained that he wanted to look at commonalities between objects, grouping the terrestrial planets together, the gas giants together, and Pluto with like objects and to get away from simply counting the planets. He has stated on The Colbert Report, The Daily Show, and BBC Horizon that this decision has resulted in large amounts of hate mail, much of it from children. In 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) confirmed this assessment by changing Pluto to the dwarf planet classification. Daniel Simone wrote of the interview with Tyson describing his frustration. "For a while, we were not very popular here at the Hayden Planetarium."
Tyson recounted the heated online debate on the Cambridge Conference Network (CCNet), a "widely read, UK-based Internet chat group" following Benny Peiser's renewed call for reclassification of Pluto's status. Peiser's entry, in which he posted articles from the AP and The Boston Globe spawned from The New York Times's article entitled "Pluto's Not a Planet? Only in New York".
Tyson has been vice president, president, and chairman of the board of the Planetary Society. He was also the host of the PBS program Nova ScienceNow until 2011. He attended and was a speaker at the Beyond Belief: Science, Religion, Reason and Survival symposium on November 2006. In 2007, Tyson was chosen to be a regular on The History Channel's popular series The Universe.
In May 2009, he launched a one-hour radio talk show called StarTalk, which he co-hosted with comedienne Lynne Koplitz. The show was syndicated on Sunday afternoons on KTLK AM in Los Angeles and WHFS in Washington DC. The show lasted for thirteen weeks, but was resurrected in December 2010 and then, co-hosted with comedians Chuck Nice and Leighann Lord instead of Koplitz. Guests range from colleagues in science to celebrities such as Gza, Wil Wheaton, Sarah Silverman, and Bill Maher. The show is also available via the internet through a live stream or in the form of a podcast.
In April 2011, Tyson was the keynote speaker at the 93rd International Convention of the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society of the Two-year School. He and James Randi delivered a lecture entitled Skepticism, which related directly with the convention's theme of The Democratization of Information: Power, Peril, and Promise. In 2012, Tyson announced that he would appear in a YouTube series based on his radio show StarTalk. A premiere date for the show has not been announced, but it will be distributed on the Nerdist YouTube Channel. On February 28, 2014, Tyson was a celebrity guest at the White House Student Film Festival.
"[A] most important feature is theanalysis of the information thatcomes your way. And that's what Idon't see enough of in this world.There's a level of gullibility thatleaves people susceptible to beingtaken advantage of. I see scienceliteracy as kind of a vaccine againstcharlatans who would try to exploityour ignorance."
He has written and broadcast extensively about his views of science, spirituality, and the spirituality of science including the essays, "The Perimeter of Ignorance" and "Holy Wars", both appearing in Natural History magazine and the 2006 Beyond Belief workshop. Tyson has collaborated with evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins and presented talks with him on religion and science. When asked if he believed in a higher power, Tyson responded:
Every account of a higher power that I've seen described, of all religions that I've seen, include many statements with regard to the benevolence of that power. When I look at the universe and all the ways the universe wants to kill us, I find it hard to reconcile that with statements of beneficence.
In an interview with Big Think, Tyson said agnosticism was the best description of his views about truth values of claims pertaining to the existence of God(s), but that "at the end of the day I'd rather not be any category at all." Similarly, during the interview "Called by the Universe: A conversation with Neil deGrasse Tyson" in 2009, Tyson said: "I can't agree to the claims by atheists that I'm one of that community."
Tyson lived near the World Trade Center and was an eyewitness to the September 11, 2001 attacks. He wrote a widely circulated letter on what he saw. Footage he filmed on the day was included in the 2008 documentary film 102 Minutes That Changed America.
On June 6, 2008, after the conclusion of the Democratic presidential primaries, Tyson wrote an op-ed in The New York Times in which he presented a statistical analysis of then recent polling data. From this analysis, Tyson concluded that in a hypothetical election held on the day of the publication of his article, Barack Obama would lose to John McCain, whereas Hillary Clinton would beat McCain.
Tyson collaborated with the organization, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), on a public service announcement that stated, "You don't have to be a rocket scientist to know that kindness is a virtue." He also granted PETA an interview, in which he discussed the concept of intelligence (both of human and other animals), the failure of humans to heretofore communicate meaningfully with other animals, and the need of humans to be empathetic.
Tyson is an advocate for expanding the operations of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Arguing that "the most powerful agency on the dreams of a nation is currently underfunded to do what it needs to be doing", Tyson has suggested that the general public has a tendency to overestimate how much revenue is allocated to the space agency. At a March 2010 address, referencing the proportion of tax revenue spent on NASA, he stated, "By the way, how much does NASA cost? It's a half a penny on the dollar. Did you know that? The people are saying, 'Why are we spending money up there...' I ask them, 'How much do you think we're spending?' They say 'five cents, ten cents on a dollar.' It's a half a penny."
In March 2012, Tyson testified before the United States Senate Science Committee, stating that:
Right now, NASA's annual budget is half a penny on your tax dollar. For twice that—a penny on a dollar—we can transform the country from a sullen, dispirited nation, weary of economic struggle, to one where it has reclaimed its 20th century birthright to dream of tomorrow.
Inspired by Tyson's advocacy and remarks, Penny4NASA, a campaign of the Space Advocates nonprofit, was founded in 2012 by John Zeller and advocates the doubling of NASA's budget to one percent of the Federal Budget, or one "penny on the dollar".
As a science communicator, Tyson regularly appears on television, radio, and various other media outlets. He has been a regular guest on The Colbert Report, and host Stephen Colbert refers to him in his comedic book I Am America (And So Can You!), noting in his chapter on scientists that most scientists are "decent, well-intentioned people", but, presumably tongue-in-cheek, that "Neil DeGrasse [sic] Tyson is an absolute monster." He has appeared numerous times on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He also has made appearances on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and The Rachel Maddow Show. He served as one of the central interviewees on the various episodes of the History Channel science program, The Universe. Tyson participated on the NPR radio quiz program Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! in 2007. He has appeared several times on Real Time with Bill Maher, and he was also featured on an episode of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? as the ask-the-expert lifeline. Tyson has also spoken many times on Philadelphia morning show Preston and Steve on 93.3 WMMR, as well as on SiriusXM's Ron and Fez.
Tyson has been featured as a guest interviewee on The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe, Radiolab, Skepticality, and The Joe Rogan Experience podcasts and has been in several of the Symphony of Science videos.
In 2007, Tyson was the keynote speaker during the dedication ceremony of Deerfield Academy's new science center, the Koch Center. He emphasized the impact science will have on the twenty-first century, as well as explaining that investments into science may be costly, but their returns in the form of knowledge gained and piquing interest is invaluable. Tyson has also appeared as the keynote speaker at The Amazing Meeting, a science and skepticism conference hosted by the James Randi Educational Foundation.
Tyson made a guest appearance as himself in the episode "Brain Storm" of Stargate Atlantis alongside Bill Nye and in the episode "The Apology Insufficiency" of The Big Bang Theory. Archive footage of him is used in the film Europa Report.
In Action Comics #14 (January 2013), which was published November 7, 2012, Tyson appears in the story, in which he determines that Superman's home planet, Krypton, orbited the red dwarf LHS 2520 in the constellation Corvus 27.1 lightyears from Earth. Tyson assisted DC Comics in selecting a real-life star that would be an appropriate parent star to Krypton, and picked Corvus, which is Latin for "Crow", and which is the mascot of Superman's high school, the Smallville Crows.
In May 2013, the Science Laureates of the United States Act of 2013 (H.R. 1891; 113th Congress) was introduced into Congress. Neil deGrasse Tyson was listed by at least two commentators as a possible nominee for the position of Science Laureate, if the act were to pass.
In a May 2011 StarTalk Radio show entitled The Political Science of the Daily Show, Tyson notes that he donates all income earned as a guest speaker.
On March 8th, 2014 Tyson made a South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive keynote presentation at the Austin Convention Center.
Tyson lives in Lower Manhattan with his wife and two children. He met his wife, Alice Young, in a physics class at the University of Texas. They married in 1988 and named their first child Miranda after one of Uranus' moons. Tyson is a fine-wine enthusiast whose collection was featured in the May 2000 issue of the Wine Spectator and the Spring 2005 issue The World of Fine Wine.
List of books by Tyson:
List of videos by Tyson: