Neil deGrasse Tyson

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Neil deGrasse Tyson
Neil deGrasse Tyson in June 2017 (cropped).jpg
Tyson in 2017, receiving the Stephen Hawking Science Medal
Born (1958-10-05) October 5, 1958 (age 61)
Manhattan, New York City, U.S.
Residence East Hampton, New York, U.S.
Education Harvard University (BA)
University of Texas, Austin (MA)
Columbia University (MPhil, PhD)
Alice Young(m. 1988)
Awards NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal (2004)
Klopsteg Memorial Award (2007)
Public Welfare Medal (2015)
Scientific career
Institutions University of Maryland, College Park
Princeton University
American Museum of Natural History
Thesis A study of the abundance distributions along the minor axis of the Galactic bulge  (1991)
Doctoral advisor R. Michael Rich
Neil deGrasse Tyson signature.svg

Neil deGrasse Tyson ( /dəˈɡræs/ ; born October 5, 1958) is an American astrophysicist, author, and science communicator. Since 1996, he has been the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space in New York City. The center is part of the American Museum of Natural History, where Tyson founded the Department of Astrophysics in 1997 and has been a research associate in the department since 2003.

Astrophysics is the branch of astronomy that employs the principles of physics and chemistry "to ascertain the nature of the astronomical objects, rather than their positions or motions in space". Among the objects studied are the Sun, other stars, galaxies, extrasolar planets, the interstellar medium and the cosmic microwave background. Emissions from these objects are examined across all parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, and the properties examined include luminosity, density, temperature, and chemical composition. Because astrophysics is a very broad subject, astrophysicists apply concepts and methods from many disciplines of physics, including classical mechanics, electromagnetism, statistical mechanics, thermodynamics, quantum mechanics, relativity, nuclear and particle physics, and atomic and molecular physics.

An author is the creator or originator of any written work such as a book or play, and is also considered a writer. More broadly defined, an author is "the person who originated or gave existence to anything" and whose authorship determines responsibility for what was created.

Science communication Public communication of science-related topics to non-experts

Science communication is the practice of informing, educating, sharing wonderment, and raising awareness of science-related topics. Science communicators and audiences are ambiguously defined and the expertise and level of science knowledge varies with each group. Two types of defined science communication are science outreach and science "inreach". An example of inreach is scholarly communication and publication in scientific journals.


Tyson studied at Harvard University, the University of Texas at Austin, and Columbia University. From 1991 to 1994, he was a postdoctoral research associate at Princeton University. In 1994, he joined the Hayden Planetarium as a staff scientist and the Princeton faculty as a visiting research scientist and lecturer. In 1996, he became director of the planetarium and oversaw its $210 million reconstruction project, which was completed in 2000.

Harvard University Private research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States

Harvard University is a private Ivy League research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with about 6,700 undergraduate students and about 13,100 postgraduate students. Established in 1636 and named for its first benefactor, clergyman John Harvard, Harvard is the United States' oldest institution of higher learning. Its history, influence, wealth, and academic reputation have made it one of the most prestigious universities in the world. It is cited as the world's top university by many publishers.

University of Texas at Austin Public research university in Austin, Texas, United States

The University of Texas at Austin is a public research university in Austin, Texas. It was founded in 1883 and is the flagship institution of the University of Texas System. The University of Texas was inducted into the Association of American Universities in 1929, becoming only the third university in the American South to be elected. The institution has the nation's eighth-largest single-campus enrollment, with over 50,000 undergraduate and graduate students and over 24,000 faculty and staff.

Columbia University Private Ivy League research university in New York City

Columbia University is a private Ivy League research university in New York City. Established in 1754 near the Upper West Side region of Manhattan, Columbia is the oldest institution of higher education in New York and the fifth-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. It is one of nine colonial colleges founded prior to the Declaration of Independence, seven of which belong to the Ivy League. It has been ranked by numerous major education publications as among the top ten universities in the world.

From 1995 to 2005, Tyson wrote monthly essays in the "Universe" column for Natural History magazine, some of which were later published in his books Death by Black Hole (2007) and Astrophysics for People in a Hurry (2017). During the same period, he wrote a monthly column in StarDate magazine, answering questions about the universe under the pen name "Merlin". Material from the column appeared in his books Merlin's Tour of the Universe (1998) and Just Visiting This Planet (1998). Tyson served on a 2001 government commission on the future of the U.S. aerospace industry and on the 2004 Moon, Mars and Beyond commission. He was awarded the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal in the same year. From 2006 to 2011, he hosted the television show NOVA ScienceNow on PBS. Since 2009, Tyson has hosted the weekly podcast StarTalk . A spin-off, also called StarTalk , began airing on National Geographic in 2015. In 2014, he hosted the television series Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey , a successor to Carl Sagan's 1980 series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage . [1] The U.S. National Academy of Sciences awarded Tyson the Public Welfare Medal in 2015 for his "extraordinary role in exciting the public about the wonders of science". [2]

Natural History is a natural history magazine published in the United States. The stated mission of the magazine is to promote public understanding and appreciation of nature and science.

<i>Death by Black Hole</i> book by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries is a 2007 popular science book written by Neil deGrasse Tyson. It is an anthology of several of Tyson's most popular articles, and was featured in an episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

<i>Astrophysics for People in a Hurry</i> book by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry is a 2017 popular science novel by Neil deGrasse Tyson, centering around a number of basic questions about the universe. Published on May 2, 2017, by W. W. Norton & Company, the book is a collection of Tyson's essays that appeared in Natural History magazine at various times from 1997 to 2007.

Early life

Tyson was born in Manhattan as the second of three children, into a family living in the Bronx. [3] His mother, Sunchita Maria Tyson (née Feliciano), was a gerontologist for the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, and is of Puerto Rican descent. [4] His African-American father, Cyril deGrasse Tyson (1927–2016), was a sociologist, human resource commissioner for New York City mayor John Lindsay, and the first Director of Harlem Youth Opportunities Unlimited. [5] [6] Tyson has two siblings: Stephen Joseph Tyson and Lynn Antipas Tyson. [5] Tyson's middle name, deGrasse, is from the maiden name of his paternal grandmother, who was born as Altima de Grasse in the British West Indies island of Nevis. [7]

Manhattan Borough in New York City and county in New York, United States

Manhattan, , is the most densely populated of the five boroughs of New York City, and coextensive with the County of New York, one of the original counties of the U.S. state of New York. Manhattan serves as the city's economic and administrative center, cultural identifier, and historical birthplace. The borough consists mostly of Manhattan Island, bounded by the Hudson, East, and Harlem rivers; several small adjacent islands; and Marble Hill, a small neighborhood now on the U.S. mainland, physically connected to the Bronx and separated from the rest of Manhattan by the Harlem River. Manhattan Island is divided into three informally bounded components, each aligned with the borough's long axis: Lower, Midtown, and Upper Manhattan.

The Bronx Borough in New York City and county in New York, United States

The Bronx is a borough of New York City, coterminous with Bronx County, in the U.S. state of New York, the third-most densely populated county in the United States. It is south of Westchester County; northeast and east of Manhattan, across the Harlem River; and north of Queens, across the East River.

United States Department of Health and Human Services Department of the US federal government

The United States Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), also known as the Health Department, is a cabinet-level department of the U.S. federal government with the goal of protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services. Its motto is "Improving the health, safety, and well-being of America". Before the separate federal Department of Education was created in 1979, it was called the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW).

Tyson grew up in the Castle Hill neighborhood of the Bronx, and later in Riverdale. [8] From kindergarten throughout high school, Tyson attended public schools in the Bronx: P.S. 36, P.S. 81, the Riverdale Kingsbridge Academy (then called "P.S. 141"), and The Bronx High School of Science (1972–1976) where he was captain of the wrestling team and editor-in-chief of the Physical Science Journal. [9] [10] His interest in astronomy began at the age of nine after visiting the sky theater of the Hayden Planetarium. [11] He recalled 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." [12] During high school, Tyson attended astronomy courses offered by the Hayden Planetarium, which he called "the most formative period" of his life. He credited Dr. Mark Chartrand III, director of the planetarium at the time, as his "first intellectual role model" and his enthusiastic teaching style mixed with humor inspired Tyson to communicate the universe to others the way he did. [13]

Castle Hill, Bronx Neighborhood of the Bronx in New York City

Castle Hill is primarily a residential neighborhood geographically located in the South Central section of the borough of the Bronx in New York City. Its boundaries are: Waterbury and Westchester Avenues to the North, Westchester Creek to the east, the East River to the South, and White Plains Road to the West.

Riverdale, Bronx Neighborhood in the Bronx in New York City

Riverdale is a residential neighborhood in the northwest portion of the Bronx, a borough in New York City. Riverdale, which has a population of 47,850 as of the 2000 United States Census, contains the northernmost point in New York City. Riverdale's boundaries are disputed, but it is commonly agreed to be bordered by Yonkers to the north, Van Cortlandt Park and Broadway to the east, the Kingsbridge neighborhood to the southeast, the Harlem River or the Spuyten Duyvil neighborhood to the south, and the Hudson River to the west. Riverdale Avenue is the primary thoroughfare through Riverdale.

The Riverdale/Kingsbridge Academy (RKA) is a small public school in Riverdale, Bronx. It has approximately 1,450 students, as it is a middle school and high school. The current Principal is Lori O'Mara. It was a middle school only until 1999 when in response to community demand, a high school was added. With the addition of a high school 8th graders are automatically admitted to the high school.

Tyson obsessively studied astronomy in his teen years, and eventually even gained some fame in the astronomy community by giving lectures on the subject at the age of fifteen. [14] Astronomer Carl Sagan, who was a faculty member at Cornell University, tried to recruit Tyson to Cornell for undergraduate studies. [6] In his book, The Sky Is Not the Limit, Tyson wrote:

Carl Sagan American astrophysicist, cosmologist, author and science educator

Carl Edward Sagan was an American astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, author, science popularizer, and science communicator in astronomy and other natural sciences. He is best known for his work as a science popularizer and communicator. His best known scientific contribution is research on extraterrestrial life, including experimental demonstration of the production of amino acids from basic chemicals by radiation. Sagan assembled the first physical messages sent into space: the Pioneer plaque and the Voyager Golden Record, universal messages that could potentially be understood by any extraterrestrial intelligence that might find them. Sagan argued the now accepted hypothesis that the high surface temperatures of Venus can be attributed to and calculated using the greenhouse effect.

Cornell University Private Ivy League research university in Upstate New York

Cornell University is a private and statutory Ivy League research university in Ithaca, New York. Founded in 1865 by Ezra Cornell and Andrew Dickson White, the university was intended to teach and make contributions in all fields of knowledge—from the classics to the sciences, and from the theoretical to the applied. These ideals, unconventional for the time, are captured in Cornell's founding principle, a popular 1868 Ezra Cornell quotation: "I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study."

Undergraduate education is education conducted after secondary education and prior to post-graduate education. It typically includes all the academic programs up to the level of a bachelor's degree. For example, in the United States, an entry level university student is known as an undergraduate, while students of higher degrees are known as graduates. In some other educational systems, undergraduate education is post-secondary education up to the level of a master's degree; this is the case for some science courses in Britain and some medicine courses in Europe.

My letter of application had been dripping with an interest in the universe. The admission office, unbeknownst to me, had forwarded my application to Carl Sagan's attention. Within weeks, I received a personal letter... [15]

Tyson revisited this moment on his first episode of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey . Pulling out a 1975 calendar belonging to the famous astronomer, he found the day Sagan invited the 17-year-old to spend a day in Ithaca. Sagan had offered to put him up for the night if his bus back to the Bronx did not come. Tyson said, "I already knew I wanted to become a scientist. But that afternoon, I learned from Carl the kind of person I wanted to become." [16] [17]

Tyson chose to attend Harvard 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, lettering in his senior year. He was also active in dance, in styles including jazz, ballet, Afro-Caribbean, and Latin Ballroom. [18]

Tyson hosting the 40th anniversary celebration of Apollo 11 at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, July 2009 Tyson - Apollo 40th anniversary 2009.jpg
Tyson hosting the 40th anniversary celebration of Apollo 11 at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, July 2009

Tyson earned an AB degree in physics at Harvard College in 1980 and then began his graduate work at the University of Texas at Austin, [19] from which he received an MA degree in astronomy in 1983. By his own account, he did not spend as much time in the research lab as he should have. His professors encouraged him to consider alternate careers and the committee for his doctoral dissertation was dissolved, ending his pursuit of a doctorate from the University of Texas. [20]

Tyson was a lecturer in astronomy at the University of Maryland from 1986 to 1987 [21] and in 1988, he was accepted into the astronomy graduate program at Columbia University, where he earned an MPhil degree in astrophysics in 1989, and a PhD degree in astrophysics in 1991 [22] under the supervision of Professor R. Michael Rich. Rich obtained funding to support Tyson's doctoral research from NASA and the ARCS foundation [23] enabling Tyson to attend international meetings in Italy, Switzerland, Chile, and South Africa [21] and to hire students to help him with data reduction. [24] 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 [25] [26] [27] helping to further their work in establishing Type Ia supernovae as standard candles.

During his thesis research at Columbia University, Tyson became acquainted with Professor David Spergel at Princeton University, who visited Columbia University in the course of collaborating with his thesis advisor on the Galactic bulge [28] [29] [30] typically found in spiral galaxies.


Tyson with students at the 2007 American Astronomical Society conference Tyson & students.jpg
Tyson with students at the 2007 American Astronomical Society conference

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 the Hayden Planetarium.

In 1994, Tyson joined the Hayden Planetarium as a staff scientist while he was a research affiliate in Princeton University. He became acting director of the planetarium in June 1995 and was appointed director in 1996. [31] As director, he oversaw the planetarium's $210 million reconstruction project, which was completed in 2000. Upon being asked for his thoughts on becoming director, Tyson said "when I was a kid... there were scientists and educators on the staff at the Hayden Planetarium... who invested their time and energy in my enlightenment... and I've never forgotten that. And to end up back there as its director, I feel this deep sense of duty, that I serve in the same capacity for people who come through the facility today, that others served for me". [32]

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 a special edition of the magazine, called "City of Stars", in 2002, Tyson popularized the term "Manhattanhenge" to describe the two days annually on which the evening sun aligns with the street grid in Manhattan, making the sunset visible along unobstructed side streets. He had coined the term in 1996, inspired by how the phenomenon recalls the sun's solstice alignment with the Stonehenge monument in England. [33] Tyson's column also influenced his work as a professor with The Great Courses. [34]

In 2001, U.S. 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. [35]

Tyson in December 2011 at a conference marking 1,000 days after the launch of the spacecraft Kepler Tyson & Kepler team.jpg
Tyson in December 2011 at a conference marking 1,000 days after the launch of the spacecraft Kepler

In 2004, Tyson hosted the four-part Origins miniseries of the PBS Nova series, [36] and, with Donald Goldsmith, co-authored the companion volume for this series, Origins: Fourteen Billion Years Of Cosmic Evolution. [37] He again collaborated with Goldsmith as the narrator on the documentary 400 Years of the Telescope , which premiered on PBS in April 2009. [38]

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. [39] In 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) confirmed this assessment by changing Pluto to the dwarf planet classification.

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. [40] 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". [41] [42]

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. [43] He attended and was a speaker at the Beyond Belief: Science, Religion, Reason and Survival symposium in November 2006. In 2007, Tyson was chosen to be a regular on The History Channel's popular series The Universe .[ citation needed ]

Tyson promoting the Cosmos TV series in Australia for National Geographic, 2014 Dr Neil deGrasse Tyson in Sydney.JPG
Tyson promoting the Cosmos TV series in Australia for National Geographic, 2014

In May 2009, Tyson launched a one-hour radio talk show called StarTalk , which he co-hosted with comedian 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 available via the Internet through a live stream or in the form of a podcast. [44]

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. [45]

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. [46] On February 28, 2014, Tyson was a celebrity guest at the White House Student Film Festival. [47]

In 2014, Tyson helped revive Carl Sagan's Cosmos: A Personal Voyage television series, presenting Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey on both FOX and the National Geographic Channel. Thirteen episodes were aired in the first season, and Tyson has stated that if a second season were produced, he would pass the role of host to someone else in the science world. [48] [49] In early January, 2018, it was announced that a second season of Cosmos was in production, and that Tyson would once again act as host. [50]

On April 20, 2015, Tyson began hosting a late-night talk show entitled StarTalk on the National Geographic Channel, where Tyson interviews pop culture celebrities and asks them about their life experiences with science. [51]

Tyson is co-developing a sandbox video game with Whatnot Entertainment, Neil deGrasse Tyson Presents: Space Odyssey , which aims to help provide players with a realistic simulation of developing a space-faring culture, incorporating educational materials about space and technology. The game was anticipated for release in 2018. [52]



[A] most important feature is the analysis of the information that comes your way. And that's what I don't see enough of in this world. There's a level of gullibility that leaves people susceptible to being taken advantage of. I see science literacy as kind of a vaccine against charlatans who would try to exploit your ignorance.

Neil deGrasse Tyson, from a transcript of an interview by Roger Bingham on The Science Network [53] [54]

Tyson has written and broadcast extensively about his views of science, spirituality, and the spirituality of science, including the essays "The Perimeter of Ignorance" [55] and "Holy Wars", [56] both appearing in Natural History magazine and the 2006 Beyond Belief workshop. In an interview with comedian Paul Mecurio, Tyson offered his definition of spirituality: "For me, when I say spiritual, I’m referring to a feeling you would have that connects you to the universe in a way that it may defy simple vocabulary. We think about the universe as an intellectual playground, which it surely is, but the moment you learn something that touches an emotion rather than just something intellectual, I would call that a spiritual encounter with the universe." [57] Tyson has argued that many great historical scientists' belief in intelligent design limited their scientific inquiries, to the detriment of the advance of scientific knowledge. [56] [58]

When asked during a question session at the University at Buffalo 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." [59] [60] :341 In an interview with Big Think , Tyson said, "So, what people are really after is what is my stance on religion or spirituality or God, and I would say if I find a word that came closest, it would be 'agnostic' ... at the end of the day I'd rather not be any category at all." [61] Additionally, in the same interview with Big Think, Tyson mentioned that he edited Wikipedia's entry on him to include the fact that he is an agnostic:

I'm constantly claimed by atheists. I find this intriguing. In fact, on my Wiki page – I didn't create the Wiki page, others did, and I'm flattered that people cared enough about my life to assemble it – and it said "Neil deGrasse Tyson is an atheist." I said, "Well that's not really true." I said, "Neil deGrasse Tyson is an agnostic." I went back a week later, it said "Neil deGrasse Tyson is an atheist" again – within a week! – and I said, "What's up with that?" and I said "Alright, I have to word it a little differently." So I said, okay "Neil deGrasse Tyson, widely claimed by atheists, is actually an agnostic." [61]

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. I don't have the time, energy, interest of conducting myself that way... I'm not trying to convert people. I don't care." [62]

Tyson in conversation with Richard Dawkins at Howard University, 2010 Neil deGrasse Tyson and Richard Dawkins at Howard University (2) - September 28, 2010.jpg
Tyson in conversation with Richard Dawkins at Howard University, 2010

In March 2014, philosopher and secularism proponent Massimo Pigliucci asked Tyson "What is it you think about God?" Tyson replied "I remain unconvinced by any claims anyone has ever made about the existence or the power of a divine force operating in the universe." Pigliucci then asked him why he expressed discomfort with the label "atheist" in his Big Think video. Tyson replied by reiterating his dislike for one-word labels, saying "That's what adjectives are for. What kind of atheist are you? Are you an ardent atheist? Are you a passive atheist? An apathetic atheist? Do you rally, or do you just not even care? So I'd be on the 'I really don't care' side of that, if you had to find adjectives to put in front of the word 'atheist'." Pigliucci contrasted Tyson with scientist Richard Dawkins: "[Dawkins] really does consider, at this point, himself to be an atheist activist. You very clearly made the point that you are not." Tyson replied: "I completely respect that activity. He's fulfilling a really important role out there." [63]

Tyson has spoken about philosophy on numerous occasions. In March 2014, during an episode of The Nerdist Podcast , he stated that philosophy is "useless" and that a philosophy major "can really mess you up", [64] which was met with disapproval. [65] [66] [67] [68] The philosopher Massimo Pigliucci later criticized him for "dismiss[ing] philosophy as a useless enterprise". [69]

Race and social justice

In an undated interview at Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Tyson talked about being black and one of the most visible and well-known scientists in the world. He told a story about being interviewed about a plasma burst from the sun on a local Fox affiliate in 1989. "I'd never before in my life seen an interview with a black person on television for expertise that had nothing to do with being black. And at that point, I realized that one of the last stereotypes that prevailed among people who carry stereotypes is that, sort of, black people are somehow dumb. I wondered, maybe ... that's a way to undermine this sort of, this stereotype that prevailed about who's smart and who's dumb. I said to myself, 'I just have to be visible, or others like me, in that situation.' That would have a greater force on society than anything else I could imagine." [70] [71]

In 2005, at a conference at the National Academy of Sciences, Tyson responded to a question about whether genetic differences might keep women from working as scientists. He said that his goal to become an astrophysicist was "...hands down the path of most resistance through the forces ... of society". He continued: "My life experience tells me, when you don’t find blacks in the sciences, when you don’t find women in the sciences, I know these forces are real and I had to survive them in order to get where I am today. So before we start talking about genetic differences, you gotta come up with a system where there’s equal opportunity. Then we can start having that conversation." [72]

In a 2014 interview with Grantland , Tyson said that he related his experience on that 2005 panel in an effort to make the point that the scientific question about genetic differences can't be answered until the social barriers are dismantled. "I'm saying before you even have that conversation, you have to be really sure that access to opportunity has been level." In that same interview, Tyson said that race is not a part of the point he is trying to make in his career or with his life. According to Tyson, "[T]hat then becomes the point of people's understanding of me, rather than the astrophysics. So it's a failed educational step for that to be the case. If you end up being distracted by that and not [getting] the message." He purposefully no longer speaks publicly about race. "I don't give talks on it. I don't even give Black History Month talks. I decline every single one of them. In fact, since 1993, I've declined every interview that has my being black as a premise of the interview." [73]


Tyson, Bill Nye, and U.S. President Barack Obama take a selfie at the White House, 2014 Bill Nye, Barack Obama and Neil deGrasse Tyson selfie 2014.jpg
Tyson, Bill Nye, and U.S. President Barack Obama take a selfie at the White House, 2014

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". [74] 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." [74]

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. [75] [76]

Inspired by Tyson's advocacy and remarks, Penny4NASA, a campaign of the Space Advocates nonprofit, [77] was founded in 2012 by John Zeller and advocates the doubling of NASA's budget to one percent of the Federal Budget. [78]

In his book Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier Tyson argues that large and ambitious space exploration projects, like getting humans to Mars, will probably require some sort of military or economic driver in order to get the appropriate funding from the United States Federal government. [79]

Media appearances

Neil deGrasse Tyson was keynote speaker at TAM6 of the JREF. Tyson at TAM6.jpg
Neil deGrasse Tyson was keynote speaker at TAM6 of the JREF.

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." [80] He has appeared numerous times on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart . He 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 . [81] 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 and 2015. [82] 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. [83] He has spoken numerous times on the Philadelphia morning show, Preston and Steve , on 93.3 WMMR, as well as on SiriusXM's Ron and Fez and The Opie and Anthony Show .

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. [84] [85]

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. [86] Footage he filmed on the day was included in the 2008 documentary film 102 Minutes That Changed America . [87]

In 2007, Tyson was the keynote speaker during the dedication ceremony of Deerfield Academy's new science center, the Koch Center, named for David H. Koch '59. 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. [88]

Tyson made a guest appearance as a version of himself in the episode "Brain Storm" of Stargate Atlantis [89] alongside Bill Nye and in the episode "The Apology Insufficiency" of The Big Bang Theory . [90] Archive footage of him is used in the film Europa Report . Tyson also made an appearance in an episode of Martha Speaks as himself. [91]

2010 Space Conference group portrait: Tyson with fellow television personality and science educator Bill Nye 2010 Space Conference group portrait.jpg
2010 Space Conference group portrait: Tyson with fellow television personality and science educator Bill Nye

In a May 2011 StarTalk Radio show, The Political Science of the Daily Show, Tyson said he donates all income earned as a guest speaker. [92]

Tyson is a frequent participant in the website Reddit's AMAs (Ask Me Anythings) where he is responsible for three of the top ten most popular AMAs of all time. [93]

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", [94] [95] and which is the mascot of Superman's high school, the Smallville Crows. [96] [97] Tyson also had a minor appearance as himself in the 2016 film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice .[ citation needed ]

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. [98] [99] On March 8, 2014, Tyson made a SXSW Interactive keynote presentation at the Austin Convention Center. [100]

On June 3, 2014, Tyson co-reviewed Gravity in a CinemaSins episode. [101] He made two more appearances with CinemaSins, co-reviewing Interstellar on September 29, 2015, [102] and The Martian on March 31, 2016. [103]

In 2016, Tyson narrated and was a script supervisor for the science documentary, Food Evolution, directed by Academy Award nominated director Scott Hamilton Kennedy. [104] In the same year, Tyson made a guest appearance on the Avenged Sevenfold album The Stage , where he delivered a monolog on the track "Exist". [105] In 2017, Tyson appeared on Logic's album Everybody as God, uncredited on various tracks, and credited on the song "AfricAryaN" [106] as well as on "The Moon" on Musiq Soulchild's album Feel the Real . [107]

In 2018, Tyson made a guest appearance on The Big Bang Theory as himself, together with fellow scientist Bill Nye, in the first episode of the show's final season ("The Conjugal Configuration"). [108]

Personal life

Tyson lives in the Tribeca neighborhood [109] of Lower Manhattan with his wife, Alice Young. They have two children: Miranda and Travis. [110] [111] Tyson met his wife in a physics class at the University of Texas at Austin. They married in 1988 and named their first child Miranda, after the smallest of Uranus' five major moons. [112] Tyson is a wine enthusiast whose collection was featured in the May 2000 issue of the Wine Spectator and the Spring 2005 issue of The World of Fine Wine . [113] [114]

Sexual misconduct allegations

During November and December 2018, accusations of sexual misconduct were raised against Tyson by four women. [115] [116] [117] Thchiya Amet El Maat accused Tyson of drugging and raping her while both were graduate students at UT Austin in 1984. [118] Katelyn Allers, a professor at Bucknell University, alleged Tyson touched her inappropriately at a 2009 American Astronomical Society gathering. [119] [120] She had a tattoo of the solar system which went from her arm to collar bone and said he was looking for Pluto. [121] Ashley Watson, Tyson's assistant on Cosmos, alleged Tyson made inappropriate sexual advances on her in 2018 which led her to resign from the position days later. [119] [120] In what Tyson described as a Native American handshake, he held her hand and looked her in the eye for ten seconds. When she left, he told her he wanted to hug her but would rather not in case he wanted more. [121] A fourth anonymous woman alleged Tyson made inappropriate comments to her during a 2010 holiday party at the American Museum of Natural History. [115] Tyson denied El Maat's rape accusation, while corroborating the basic facts around the situation of Allers and Watson's assertions, but claimed his actions were misinterpreted and apologized for any misunderstanding or offense. [122] [123] [124]

Fox, National Geographic, the Museum of Natural History, and the producers of Cosmos announced investigations, which Tyson stated that he welcomed. [125] The National Geographic Channel announced on January 3, 2019, that they were putting further episodes of StarTalk on hiatus as "to allow the investigation to occur unimpeded". [126] [127] The premiere of Cosmos: Possible Worlds, initially scheduled for March 3, 2019, was also delayed while the investigation continued. [128] On March 15, 2019, both National Geographic and Fox announced that "The investigation is complete, and we are moving forward with both StarTalk and Cosmos," and that "There will be no further comment." The networks affirmed that both StarTalk and Cosmos would resume, but that no date had been set. [129] In July, the American Museum of Natural History stated Neil deGrasse Tyson would keep his job as director of the Hayden Planetarium. [121]


List of awards received by Tyson: [114]



Honorary doctorates


2006–2011 Nova ScienceNow HostTV series
2010 NOVA HostEpisode: "The Pluto Files"
2012The Inexplicable Universe: Unsolved MysteriesHimself6-part lecture series from The Great Courses [140]
2014 Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey HostDocumentary
2015–present StarTalk HostTV series
2016 Food Evolution NarratorDocumentary
2018 The Last Sharknado: It's About Time MerlinTV movie
TBACosmos: Possible WorldsHostDocumentary

Other appearances

2008 Stargate: Atlantis HimselfEpisode: "Brain Storm" [141]
  • 2010;
  • 2018
The Big Bang Theory Himself2 episodes:
"The Apology Insufficiency"
"The Conjugal Configuration"
2012 Martha Speaks HimselfEpisode: "Eyes on the Skies"
2014 Gravity Falls Waddles the pigEpisode: "Little Gift Shop of Horrors" [142]
2015 Brooklyn Nine-Nine HimselfEpisode: "The Swedes" [143]
2016 Family Guy HimselfEpisode: "Scammed Yankees"
2016 Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice HimselfSuperhero film
2016 Lazer Team HimselfComedy film
2016 Ice Age: Collision Course Neil deBuck WeaselAnimated movie
2016 Zoolander 2 HimselfComedy film
2016 BoJack Horseman Planetarium narratorEpisode: "That's Too Much, Man!"
2016 100 Things to Do Before High School HimselfEpisode: "Meet Your Idol Thing!"
2016 Future-Worm! HimselfEpisode: "Long Live Captain Cakerz!"
2016 The Jim Gaffigan Show HimselfEpisode: "Jim at the Museum"
2016 Regular Show HimselfEpisode: "Terror Tales of The Park VI"
2016 Mars HimselfMini TV series
2017 The Simpsons HimselfEpisode: "Caper Chase"
2017 Futurama: Worlds of Tomorrow HimselfMobile app game
2017 Super Science Friends HimselfWeb series; Episode 3
2019 Scooby-Doo and Guess Who? Himself


List of non-single guest appearances, with other performing artists, showing year released and album name
"Exist" [144] 2016 Avenged Sevenfold The Stage
"AfricAryaN" [145] [146] [147] 2017 Logic Everybody


List of works by Tyson: [148]


Signing a copy of his book Origins at The Amazing Meeting by the James Randi Educational Foundation, 2008 Neil deGrasse Tyson.jpg
Signing a copy of his book Origins at The Amazing Meeting by the James Randi Educational Foundation, 2008

Research publications

Related Research Articles

Ann Druyan American author and producer

Ann Druyan is an Emmy and Peabody Award-winning American writer, producer, and director specializing in the communication of science. She co-wrote the 1980 PBS documentary series Cosmos, hosted by Carl Sagan, whom she married in 1981. She is the creator, producer, and writer of the 2014 sequel, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey and its upcoming new season, Cosmos: Possible Worlds. She is credited with directing episodes of both series as well.

<i>Cosmos</i> (Carl Sagan book) 1980 popular science book by Carl Sagan

Cosmos is a 1980 popular science book by astronomer and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Carl Sagan. Its 13 illustrated chapters, corresponding to the 13 episodes of the Cosmos TV series, which the book was co-developed with and intended to complement, explore the mutual development of science and civilization. One of Sagan's main purposes for the book and television series was to explain complex scientific ideas to anyone interested in learning. Sagan also believed the television was one of the greatest teaching tools ever invented, so he wished to capitalize on his chance to educate the world. Spurred in part by the popularity of the TV series, Cosmos spent 50 weeks on the Publishers Weekly best-sellers list and 70 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list to become the best-selling science book ever published at the time. In 1981, it received the Hugo Award for Best Non-Fiction Book. The book's unprecedented success ushered in a dramatic increase in visibility for science-themed literature. The success of the book also jumpstarted Sagan's literary career. The sequel to Cosmos is Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space (1994).

Manhattanhenge event in which the rising or setting sun aligns with the east–west streets of the main grid of Manhattan in New York City

Manhattanhenge, also called the Manhattan Solstice, is an event during which the setting sun or the rising sun is aligned with the east–west streets of the main street grid of Manhattan, New York City. The sunsets and sunrises each align twice a year, on dates evenly spaced around the summer solstice and winter solstice. The sunset alignment occurs around May 28 and around July 13. The sunrise alignment occurs around December 5 and around January 8. The best places for viewing Manhattanhenge are 14th, 23rd, 34th, 42nd, and 57th Streets.

Rose Center for Earth and Space

The Rose Center for Earth and Space is a part of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. The Center's complete name is The Frederick Phineas and Sandra Priest Rose Center for Earth and Space. The main entrance is located on the northern side of the museum on 81st Street near Central Park West in Manhattan's Upper West Side. Completed in 2000, it includes the new Hayden Planetarium, the original of which was opened in 1935 and closed in 1997. Neil deGrasse Tyson is its first and, to date, only director.

Steven Soter is an astrophysicist currently holding the positions of scientist-in-residence for New York University's Environmental Studies Program and of Research Associate for the Department of Astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History. He is a proponent of the International Astronomical Union's definition of planet.

13123 Tyson, provisional designation 1994 KA, is a stony Phocaea asteroid and an asynchronous binary system from the inner regions of the asteroid belt, approximately 10 kilometers in diameter. It was discovered on May 16, 1994, by American astronomer Carolyn Shoemaker and Canadian astronomer David Levy at the Palomar Observatory in California, United States. The asteroid was named for Neil deGrasse Tyson, American astrophysicist and popular science communicator.

<i>The Pluto Files</i> book by Neil deGrasse Tyson

The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America's Favorite Planet is a book written by the astrophysicist and Hayden Planetarium director Neil deGrasse Tyson. The book is about Pluto, which was demoted to the status of dwarf planet in August 2006 by the International Astronomical Union, thereby depriving it of its planet-hood. The book also focuses on the fact that many Americans rallied their support for this icy dwarf on the edge of the Solar System because it was discovered by an American.

<i>Nova ScienceNow</i> television series

Nova ScienceNow is a spinoff of the long-running and venerable PBS science program Nova. Premiering on January 25, 2005, the series was originally hosted by Robert Krulwich, who described it as an experiment in coverage of "breaking science, science that's right out of the lab, science that sometimes bumps up against politics, art, culture". At the beginning of season two, Neil deGrasse Tyson replaced Krulwich as the show's host. Tyson announced he would leave the show and was replaced by David Pogue beginning season 6.

The Symphony of Science is a music project created by Washington-based electronic musician John D. Boswell. The project seeks to "spread scientific knowledge and philosophy through musical remixes." Boswell uses pitch-corrected audio and video samples from television programs featuring popular educators and scientists. The audio and video clips are mixed into digital mashups and scored with Boswell's original compositions. Two of Boswell's music videos, "A Glorious Dawn" and "We are All Connected", feature appearances from Carl Sagan, Richard Feynman, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye, and Stephen Hawking. The audio and video is sampled from popular science television shows including Cosmos, The Universe, The Eyes of Nye, The Elegant Universe, and Stephen Hawking's Universe.

<i>Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey</i> 2014 American science documentary television series presented by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey is a 2014 American science documentary television series. The show is a follow-up to the 1980 television series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, which was presented by Carl Sagan on the Public Broadcasting Service and is considered a milestone for scientific documentaries. This series was developed to bring back the foundation of science to network television at the height of other scientific-based television series and films. The show is presented by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who, as a young high school student, was inspired by Sagan. Among the executive producers are Seth MacFarlane, whose financial investment was instrumental in bringing the show to broadcast television, and Ann Druyan, a co-author and co-creator of the original television series and Sagan's wife. The show is produced by Brannon Braga, and Alan Silvestri composed the backing score.

MinutePhysics YouTube channel created by Henry Reich

MinutePhysics is an educational YouTube channel created by Henry Reich. The channel's videos use whiteboard animation to explain physics-related topics in approximately one minute. As of November 2017, the channel has over 4 million subscribers.

WebVTT is a W3C standard for displaying timed text in connection with the HTML5 <track> element. The early drafts of its specification were written by WHATWG in 2010, after discussions about what caption format should be supported by HTML5, the main options being the relatively mature, XML-based TTML or an entirely new but more lightweight standard based on the popular SRT format. The final decision was for the new standard, initially called WebSRT. It shared the .srt file extension and was "broadly based on" the SubRip format, though not fully compatible with it. The prospective format was later renamed WebVTT. In the January 13, 2011 version of the HTML5 Draft Report, the <track> tag was introduced and the specification was updated to document WebVTT cue text rendering rules. The WebVTT specification is still in draft stage but the basic features are already supported by all major browsers.

<i>Talking About Life</i> book by Chris Impey

Talking About Life: Conversations on Astrobiology is a non-fiction book edited by astronomer Chris Impey that consists of interviews with three dozen leading experts on the subject of astrobiology. The subject matter ranges from the nature and limits of life on Earth to the current search for exoplanets and the prospects of intelligent life in the universe. The book was published as a hardcover by Cambridge University Press in 2010.

Penny4NASA organization

Penny4NASA is a campaign run by the Space Advocates nonprofit, a nonpartisan organization seeking to promote the expansion of funding for the economic, scientific and cultural value of the United States' national space program by advocating an increase in the budget for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to at least one percent of the United States Federal Budget. Penny4NASA also attempts to promote public awareness of the NASA mission and budget, and has produced a series of outreach videos, as well as performing educational outreach via social media.

"Standing Up in the Milky Way" is the first aired episode of the American documentary television series Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. It premiered on March 9, 2014, simultaneously on various Fox television networks, including National Geographic Channel, FX, Fox Life, and others. The episode is presented by the series host astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, directed by Brannon Braga, produced by Livia Hanich and Steven Holtzman, and written by Ann Druyan and Steven Soter.

"Deeper, Deeper, Deeper Still" is the sixth episode of the American documentary television series Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. It premiered on April 13, 2014 on Fox and aired on April 14, 2014 on National Geographic Channel. The episode explores the smallest particles in the universe, where host Neil deGrasse Tyson "hunts for elusive neutrinos and the distant, early universe." The episode features the underground neutrino laboratory, Super-Kamiokande, located underneath Mount Kamioka in Japan.

"Unafraid of the Dark" is the thirteenth and final episode of the American documentary television series Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey and its series finale. It premiered on June 8, 2014, on Fox and aired on June 9, 2014, on the National Geographic Channel. The episode was written by Ann Druyan and Steven Soter, and directed by Ann Druyan, making this her series directorial debut. The episode explores the mysteries of dark energy and dark matter, as well as the contributions and theories of Swiss astronomer Fritz Zwicky, who furthered our understanding of "supernovae, neutron stars and 'standard candles.'" The finale reveals a recording of life on Earth - the final message on the golden record of the space probe, Voyager. The episode ends with Carl Sagan's iconic speech on Earth as the "Pale Blue Dot."

<i>StarTalk</i> (podcast) podcast hosted by Neil DeGrasse Tyson

StarTalk is a podcast on space, science, and popular culture hosted by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, with various comic and celebrity co-hosts and frequent guests from the worlds of science and entertainment. Past co-hosts have included Colin Jost, Lynne Koplitz, Leighann Lord, Eugene Mirman, Chuck Nice, John Oliver, and Kristen Schaal. Guests have included astronaut Buzz Aldrin, actor Morgan Freeman, George Takei, comedian Joan Rivers, Arianna Huffington, Richard Dawkins and writer Mary Roach. StarTalk has a segment called Cosmic Queries, in which listeners send in questions about the universe to be answered on the show.

R. Michael Rich American astrophysicist

Robert Michael Rich is an American astrophysicist. He obtained his B.A. at Pomona College in 1979 and earned his Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology in 1986 under thesis supervisor Jeremy R. Mould. He was a Carnegie Fellow at Carnegie/DTM until 1988 when he joined the faculty of Columbia University where he was the doctoral thesis adviser to Neil deGrasse Tyson, and is on the faculty of the University of California, Los Angeles.


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