Neil Degrasse Tyson Biography & Facts
Neil deGrasse Tyson (US: or UK: ; born October 5, 1958) is an American astrophysicist, author, and science communicator. 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. Since 1996, he has been the 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.
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. 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".
Tyson was born in Manhattan as the second of three children, into a family living in the Bronx. 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. His mother, Sunchita Maria Tyson (née Feliciano; born 1928), was a gerontologist for the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, and is of Puerto Rican descent. Tyson has two siblings: Stephen Joseph Tyson and Lynn Antipas Tyson. 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.Tyson grew up in the Castle Hill neighborhood of the Bronx, and later in Riverdale. From kindergarten throughout high school, Tyson attended public schools in the Bronx: PS 36 Unionport, PS 81 Robert J. Christen, the Riverdale Kingsbridge Academy (MS 141), and The Bronx High School of Science (Class of 1976) where he was captain of the wrestling team, editor-in-chief of the Physical Science Journal, and graduated in 1976. His interest in astronomy began at the age of nine after visiting the sky theater of the Hayden Planetarium. 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." During high school, Tyson attended astronomy courses offered by the Hayden Planetarium, which he called "the most formative period" of his life. He credited 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.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. Astronomer Carl Sagan, who was a faculty member at Cornell University, tried to recruit Tyson to Cornell for undergraduate studies. In his book, The Sky Is Not the Limit, Tyson wrote:
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...
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."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.
Tyson earned a BA degree in physics at Harvard College in 1980 and then began his graduate work at the University of Texas at Austin, 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 alternative careers and the committee for his doctoral dissertation was dissolved, ending his pursuit of a doctorate from the University of Texas.Tyson was a lecturer in astronomy at the University of Maryland from 1986 to 1987 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 under the supervision of Professor R. Michael Rich. 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.
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 typically found in spiral galaxies.
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 t.... Discover the Neil Degrasse Tyson popular books. Find the top 100 most popular Neil Degrasse Tyson books.