Neil deGrasse Tyson Biography – Bringing Science to the People
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Neil deGrasse Tyson Biography – Bringing Science to the People

At the age of 9 he knew what he wanted to
do with his life, and he never wavered from his goal. Now, he’s one of the world’s most famous
scientists. He’s earned the title of “Most Powerful
Nerd In The Universe” from National Public Radio and the title of “The World’s Sexiest
Astrophysicist” from People Magazine. He was instrumental in cutting down the number
of planets in our solar system, and in doing so upset entire generations who had come to
love Pluto as the quirky, smallest planet. And who is this icon of science that’s recognizable
by the general populace? … Neil deGrasse Tyson. Early Life Tyson was born in New York City in 1959 and
grew up in the Bronx. His mother worked for the U.S. Department
of Health, Education, and Welfare, and his father worked for the City of New York. Tyson was a star student at the Bronx High
School of Science. Well before beginning at the Bronx High School
of Science, Tyson had decided that science was the path he wanted to follow in life. When he was in elementary school, Tyson’s
class took a field trip to the Hayden Planetarium. While there, he felt that he was literally
called to a career in science. “…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.” Tyson immediately began committing time to
his newfound interest – some might say obsession – and his time in high school showed his dedication
to the study of the stars. While attending the Bronx High School of Science,
Tyson was a wrestler but he devoted much time to his studies. He was the editor of the Physical Science
Journal, and regular classes weren’t enough for him…he took classes at the very place
that sparked his interest in astrophysics – the Hayden Planetarium. After school, he spent time observing the
sky, moon, and stars from the roof of his New York home. His dedication to science and academics during
his teenage years grabbed the attention of some prominent people. One, you may have heard of – Carl Sagan. When it came time for Tyson to apply to college,
Cornell was among the schools he applied to. Sagan was a professor at Cornell, and the
admissions office made sure he was sent a copy of Tyson’s application after they relieved
the talent and potential that was within this aspiring scientist. Sagan was duly impressed by what Tyson had
written in his application, so much so that he invited Tyson up to spend a day at Cornell. Tyson remembers that day in 1975 as one of
the most formative in his life. Sagan died in 1996, and Tyson came into possession
of his datebook which includes the notation “Neil Tyson” on the square for December
20, 1975. The two science-minded men spent the day together,
touring Cornell’s labs and discussing the mysteries of the universe. Sagan gifted Tyson with a copy of the book
“The Cosmic Connection,” inscribing it to indicate his prediction and hope for Tyson’s
career – “To A Future Astronomer.” Tyson never forgot what he learned from Sagan
that day, and the lessons he took back to the Bronx with him were about far more than
the scientific method. “I already knew I wanted to become a scientist,
but that afternoon I learned from Carl the kind of person I wanted to become. He reached out to me and to countless others. Inspiring so many of us to study, teach, and
do science. Science is a cooperative enterprise, spanning
the generations.” A few months after his visit to Cornell, Tyson
graduated from the Bronx High School of Science. Even though his visit with Sagan had a profound
impact on his life, Tyson opted not to attend Cornell. But as an excellent student, he had no shortage
of prominent schools to choose from. Though Cornell wasn’t the right fit for
him, Harvard was. Tyson entered Harvard as an undergrad in the
fall of 1976. As a student, he paid his tuition partially
through grants and scholarships, but also through a work study program. Part of Tyson’s work requirement was to
clean bathrooms on campus – including those of other students. On a Larry King Live appearance, he described
the experience as “a little weird.” But he was willing to do it to pay his way
through school and achieve his dreams. Working and studying physics weren’t enough
to occupy the active and curious Tyson, though. He was on the crew team and the wrestling
team while he was at Harvard, and was also a jazz, ballet, and Latin dancer. He graduated from Harvard in 1980 with a degree
in physics, and kept his academic career moving forward with an acceptance to the University
of Texas for a Master’s Program. He completed his M.A. in astronomy 1983, and
he intended to pursue a doctorate from the college. But he hit a roadblock, and Tyson himself
admits that the roadblock was largely of his own making. Looking back, he has admitted that he didn’t
devote as much time to doing lab research during his graduate years as he should have
and could have, and this prevented him from being able to go right from his Master’s
program to earning a doctoral degree. He even had professors tell him to stop working
in the field of astronomy. At one point, struggling as a student and
broke, Tyson considered a very different job than that of professor or museum director. He thought about becoming an exotic dancer. He even went so far as to go to a show to
see if he could do it. When the dancers came out and their skimpy
undergarments were lit up as they gyrated to a rendition of “Great Balls of Fire,”
Tyson decided that no matter how broke he was, exotic dancing wasn’t for him. Thankfully for the scientific community, Tyson’s
break from academics was short-lived. With his undergraduate achievements and a
start on a graduate degree, he was able to land a teaching job at the University of Maryland,
and eventually found his way back onto the doctoral track in the Ivy Leagues. In 1991, fifteen years after scrubbing toilets
to pay for his undergraduate degree, Tyson graduated from Columbia University with a
doctorate in astrophysics. He then stayed in the Ivy League system, moving
to Princeton for a postdoctoral position. Scientific Career While he was earning his degrees and moving
his way up the academic ladder, Tyson was publishing articles and writing a column for
StarDate, a science magazine published by the University of Texas. While he was attending Columbia, he worked
under a professor who was supportive of Tyson’s ambitions and intellect, applying for grants
that gave Tyson access to the international astronomy community. Tyson traveled throughout Europe, attending
meetings and learning from the best and brightest in the field around the world. And Tyson’s own star was starting to rise…
soon after graduating from Columbia he landed his dream job … a position at the very Hayden
Planetarium where his dreams had started. He started out as a staff scientist. It was only one year before he was named Acting
Director of the planetarium. Then, only one more year until he was formally
named the director of the Planetarium. Early on in his tenure as director, he made
updating and modernizing the facility a keystone of his work at Hayden. The project was a 200 million dollar undertaking
that gave the public a modernized, inviting look at the vastness of the universe. And his work extended well beyond the Planetarium. In 2001, he received a presidential appointment
to work on policies related to the future of the U.S. space industry. After that, he was part of a commission to
work on the future of space exploration. His service on these commissions was so impressive
that NASA gave him the “Distinguished Public Service Medal.” Tyson’s scientific work, as well as decisions
he made about the Hayden Planetarium put him into the spotlight for the general public,
well beyond just those in the scientific community. He became a household name because of one
decision in particular. What did he do? He removed the planet of Pluto from the Planetarium’s
solar system display. Schoolchildren, parents, and scientists alike
were not impressed with his decision. And soon became about more than that one Planetarium’s
display. Pluto’s fate was taken up by an international
organization…the International Astronomical Union. In August of 2006 the organization made their
agreement with Tyson’s stance on Pluto official when they deemed Pluto a dwarf planet, officially
knocking our solar system down to only 8 planets. So what does Tyson maintain is so wrong with
Pluto? For one, it has the potential to grow a tail. What? Yes, a tail. Here’s the explanation from Tyson himself: “So Pluto is not only the littlest planet,
all right, that alone shouldn’t hurt it, but more than half of its volume is ice. No other planet has that. So if you moved it to where Earth is right
now, heat from the sun would evaporate the ice and it would grow a tail. That’s no kind of behavior for a planet!” Add to that, Pluto’s orbit is much more
elongated than that of the other planets, and it’s so small that other planets have
moons that are larger than Pluto. Though the Pluto decision was perhaps the
most famous – some would say infamous – scientific assertion of Tyson’s career, he has published
articles, essays, and books that discuss much more than the demotion of a planet. He wrote for Natural History magazine in the
90s, and his columns were turned into two different books, Death By Black Hole and Astrophysics
for People in a Hurry. He chose the pen name of Merlin for himself
when he wrote a column in the Star Date magazine, and those columns were also published as books. Pop Culture Figure Tyson hasn’t just used publications to spread
the word about science and the universe. He’s hosted TV shows, regularly appears
as a guest on other shows, and has his own podcast called “StarTalk.” He hosted NovaScience Now in the mid-2000s,
raising his profile even further to Americans. He was so popular as a host, that in 2014
the network brought him back to delve even further into science for the American people. The 2014 show gave Tyson the opportunity to
build on the work of a man who had impacted him early on in his life…Carl Sagan. The show? Cosmos, a new version of the popular one that
Sagan had hosted in 1980, based on his book of the same name. At the time of its airing in 1980, Cosmos
was the most-watched show in the United States. If there was anyone who could live up to those
kinds of expectations, it was Tyson. He didn’t have to go it alone in 2014, though. He had the help of Sagan’s widow, who worked
as a writer for Cosmos, and the two made sure to include allusions to Sagan and his work
throughout the rebooted series. The series was a success, and over 3 million
Americans put their TV on Fox to catch the newest science lesson presented by Tyson every
Sunday night for 13 weeks. The Cosmos reboot was undoubtedly successful,
and showed Tyson’s appeal to the general populace. But his appeal in the media has gone well
beyond direct, serious science. He’s appeared as a guest star on Family
Guy, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and as a character in New Ice Age. The Big Bang Theory, with its nerdy cast,
of course welcomed Tyson on as a guest. He even made an appearance on Avenged Sevenfold’s
album The Stage. He didn’t sing, but instead delivered a
monologue during one of the band’s songs. A musical appearance that was rumored to happen,
but never did, was that Tyson would appear on an album with Wu Tang Clan member GZA. Though the appearance didn’t happen, it
speaks to Tyson’s breadth of talents and popularity that many people thought it was
a very probable thing for Tyson to do. While the album didn’t happen, Tyson and
GZA did appear together when GZA rapped on StarTalk. Even the Daily Show has regularly featured
Tyson to comment on science matters, and as he did with Pluto, Tyson made no bones about
sharing his thoughts on what he thought needed correction. Live on-air, he informed Jon Stewart: “The beginning of your program? The Earth is spinning in the wrong direction. I’m sorry. I had to get that off my chest.” The Earth on the credits was spinning clockwise,
when Earth really spins counter-clockwise. Though Tyson pointed it out to Stewart and
the entire viewing audience, it wasn’t until Trevor Noah took over as host in 2015 that
the show made a permanent correction to the Earth’s spinning direction. Tyson was excited about the change, and tweeted
out his thanks to the Daily Show. The Daily Show’s globe isn’t the only
correction that Tyson’s scientific knowledge has led to in the realm of pop culture. Remember the 1997 blockbuster movie Titanic? Tyson saw it – and he wasn’t impressed. Near the end, after the ship has sunk, Rose
is lying on a board in the freezing Atlantic Ocean. She’s gazing up at the night sky, and the
audience can see what she see’s – the stars in the sky over the ocean. When Tyson saw the scene, he noticed something
the rest of us didn’t. The stars weren’t the right ones and weren’t
the right arrangement for the year 1912, at the latitude and longitude where the Titanic
sunk. So, as with the Daily Show, Tyson let director
David Cameron know. According to Cameron, Tyson sent him a “snarky
email” on the subject. Fifteen years after the film was first released,
Cameron took Tyson’s suggestion and adjusted the night sky in that scene to be accurate. Titanic and the Daily Show weren’t enough
for Tyson. He’s even had a hand in keeping Superman
scientifically accurate. DC Comics wanted to feature the world’s
most famous astrophysicist in a comic, but Tyson wouldn’t do it unless he could be
sure of the accuracy. With the distance Krypton is supposed to be
from the Earth, Tyson he would never be able to help Superman spot it, so what did he do? He did his research found an actual red star
to serve as Krypton, and crafted a story whereby Superman would combine all the telescopes
on Earth to be able to see Krypton. No media format has been untouched by Tyson. The man is everywhere, spreading the word
of science, and the people of the world are listening. Creators and producers take his advice, and
seek him out for appearances. Among scientists, he is unique in this kind
of stardom. Personal Life A serious scientist and a pop culture figure
would seem to make any person interesting enough. But Tyson has hobbies and interests that go
well beyond the mysteries of space and the sharing of science. He and his wife, Alice – who he met in a physics
class – are both foodies. Tyson has said they probably spend too much
money on food, but living in Manhattan they have so many restaurants to explore and so
many food options to try out they take every opportunity they can to enjoy new foods. Tyson is a also wine connoisseur. His love of science plays a big role in his
enjoyment of wine, helping him to understand why different wines taste different and how
they can be best served. Like much else, Tyson explains these concepts
simply so that non-scientists can understand them, too. “The lower-than-32-degrees freezing point
of liquids that contain alcohol, like wine, allows you to chill a bottle of white wine
to sub-freezing temperatures without it freezing, before you bring it a dinner party. The wine warms up during the travel time to
just the right temperature in time for dinner.” And a rather well-known scientist is the source
of Tyson’s favorite quote about food and wine…Galileo. “The sun, with all those planets revolving
around it and dependent on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else
in the universe to do.” Food, wine, physics … what’s left for
him to care about and learn about? Calligraphy, for one. Tyson can create beautiful lettered art with
a feather pen, but is especially passionate about fountain pens. He loves them so much that his wife spent
6,000 dollars to buy him a Japanese-made pen as a gift when he finalized the contract for
his autobiography. He even gave an entire interview to the New
York Times on the pen and his love of calligraphy. In the interview, he described his own mathematical
theory behind how you can tell if a pen is perfect for calligraphy. Having to dip the pen to refresh the ink after
6 to 8 words mean you’re writing with a beautiful rhythm, he says. Conclusion He’s passionate about life and the finer
things in it. He’s passionate about science, and the world
knows it. With all that he’s accomplished in his life
and the celebrity status he’s achieved, it would be easy to excuse Tyson for having
a large ego. But he doesn’t. In fact, he takes special pains to point out
the danger of ego: “If your ego starts out, ‘I am important,
I am big, I am special,’ you’re in for some disappointments when you look around at what
we’ve discovered about the universe. No, you’re not big. No, you’re not. You’re small in time and in space. And you have this frail vessel called the
human body that’s limited on Earth.” Perhaps this attitude is a large part of his
success and why he is so beloved. For all his intelligence and his contributions
to the study of space, Neil DeGrasse Tyson remains firmly planted with two feet on Earth.

100 thoughts on “Neil deGrasse Tyson Biography – Bringing Science to the People

  1. he's a good guy who's brought those of us that are let say a bit ignorant to all that science encompasses an idiots guide to a simple understanding of what surrounds us all and possibly races our IQ's oh so slightly

  2. It's not just that Pluto would grow a tail in Earths position and that many planets have moons that are larger than Pluto. It's also the fact that Pluto is too small to clear its own orbit from smaller asteroids. It's literally having a too weak gravity to be able to do that.

  3. Sorry to rain on the parade but in the Real Scientific/Engineering community he isn't exactly well thought of…more like a political carnival barker with modest at best academic qualifications and a guy who has never actually accomplished anything that requires actual scientific or engineering rigor (a PhD. Engineer who works for a large American defense contractor.

  4. I saw a video here on Youtube a while back. One of him answering a childs question. It was about dyslectic scientists. I loved his answer and not least the way he answered that Girl. From the reaction of the grownups around (laughing at her) I simply adore his way of scilensing (?) them and answer her properly. (Sorry for any misspellings, English is my second language )

  5. He is not a scientist since he didn't discover anything. Talking about science on TV shows doesn't make you a scientist

  6. I love Neil de Grasse Tyson, I’m not academic material myself, but I truly appreciate his contribution to the scientific community and especially the fields of astrophysics and cosmology.

  7. Not only is Tyson a national treasure but a specifically new York city treasure. Which is obviously the best kind. Except Texas of course.

  8. Always enjoy spending time with your channel, but this is my favorite piece thus far. (An absolutely beautiful speciMAN!)
    Nicely done.

  9. How about a bio on one of the pioneers in the auto industry? Not just Henry Ford, either. I mean someone whose story is not as well known. For example, Ransom E. OLds, David Dunbar Buick, Walter P. Chrysler, William Durant John and Horace Dodge and/or Louis Chevrolet.

  10. Sadly dr. Tyson is a puppet of the media (not taking away his credit of being a renowned scientist)and gets himself into politics more than he has to. Science does not have to do with politics and people especially scientists need to figure it out. Michio Kaku doesnt get himself into politics very often but when he does he is very vague about it

  11. Carl Sagan! of course!! perfect fit for biographics!! (and i watched Rockefeller earlier, got me thinking, what if you made one about the Saudi Royal Family..more precisely Ibn Saud)

  12. Really wonderful video. I've lived in "The Bronx" all my life and he has been a great source of pride to me, and others. Thank you.

  13. You should do a biography on Bill Nye. He is a much greater scientist, don't get me wrong. I respect Neil DeGrasse Tyson. But he is more of a speaker and administrator then a researcher.

  14. Ben Carson
    Nate Turner…only if you're gonna be fair and accurate
    Michelle Obama
    Emmitt Till and his legacy/ how his death was a large catalyst to the start of the Civil Rights movement

  15. Neil deGrasse is definitely handsome, but love to hear his mind think. So interesting and smart. Makes me want to be an astrophysicist.

  16. I happened to be teaching a science unit about our solar system when Pluto was declared no longer a planet. As this was a Preschool (3’s) program, it was a great opportunity to teach that the more we learn, sometimes we need to change our thinking. It was an interesting challenge to take the former planet of Pluto out of our displays, teaching, artwork,etc. I believe that it was a wonderful lesson that learning can evolve and we need to keep checking the facts. Neil Tyson is an amazing person! πŸ’«

  17. I know every recorded detail of Carl Sagan's life (even have an enormous hip to knee tattoo of the night sky in dedication to him). While I've loved and enjoyed Tyson, I had no idea of his early life. The dancing and wrestling, the almost exotic dancing-that was so interesting and unexpected. Thanks once again, Biographics. Truly in my top 3 favorite YouTube channels.

  18. Fountain pens are cool, Tyson has taste for good things. It remembers me of my father (now retired teacher) writing with Pelikan fountain pen, correcting student's work. These days really had magic of it's own.

  19. He is a head of a planetarium and not much of an astrophysicist. He loves marketing himself as a genius and thinks he is the next Carl Sagan, but he is actually controversial especially regarding his treatment of women.

  20. I`ve never found a tweet about his reaction to Pluto being a planet again! I have yet to finishe his latest JRE but I think Joe didn`t ask him about it.
    Has anyone heard his reaction?

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