2010-02-19 / Columnists

Drawing On Science

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson
Commentary By Stephen S. Yaeger

I first became familiar with Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson when I read his column, Universe, which appears in Natural History Magazine. As a matter of fact, although I always liked astronomy, it was his writings that peaked my interest to a greater extent. Then one day I watched a program, I don’t recall the name, which featured Dr. Tyson. I appreciated his presentation of astronomy in a general, light-hearted manner, and have watched all of his series ever since.

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson was born in New York City on October 5, 1958 and had his interest in science bolstered when first he saw the night sky in the massive Hayden Planetarium. That sky was nothing like the night sky he was used to seeing over his home in the Bronx. It was this experience that prompted him to become an astrophysicist (one who studies the physics of celestial bodies such as stars and galaxies) at the ripe young age of 9. He attended NYC’s public school system ultimately graduating from the Bronx High School of Science. He earned his BA in Physics from Harvard University and completed his PhD in Astrophysics while attending Colum-bia University. In 1996 Dr. Tyson was appointed Director of the world-renown Frederick P. Rose-Hayden Planetarium of the American Museum of Natural History, becoming the first occupant of this prestigious office.

Dr. Tyson’s interests are extensive. They include research in star formation, dwarf galaxies, structure of the Milky Way, and exploding stars. He makes extensive use of the Hubble Space Telescope, which enables him to observe extremely distant galaxies, as well as telescopes in Arizona, California and New Mexico. He has also looked through telescopes located in the Andes Mountains of Chile.

In 2001 he was appointed by President Bush to serve on a commission of 12 to explore the future of the U.S. aerospace industry. He was once again asked by President Bush to serve on the nine-member Moon, Mars, and Beyond Commission. This group studied the US’ role in space exploration. In the fall of 2006 Dr. Tyson became the host and executive editor of the PBS series “NOVA scienceNow.” This series is presented in a magazine format exploring science frontiers. His humorous and likeable personality can be seen as the host and teacher for this very interesting series. Again on his lighter side Dr. Tyson co-hosted, with comedienne Lynn Koplitz, the NSF-funded program (a pilot) Star Talk. It had celebrity guests and, sort of, had fun with science proving that anyone can like science.

Also in 2006 Dr. Tyson was asked to serve on NASA’s Advisory Council, which guides the organization on how to best use its restricted budget to develop and initiate its projects. He has been presented with nine honorary doctorates as well as the NASA Dis-tinguished Public Service Medal. He has been recognized for his contributions allowing the public to understand and appreciate the cosmos. This recognition takes the form of the International Astronomical Union’s naming of asteroid 13123 “Tyson.”

As an author, Dr. Tyson has many books to his name including The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America’s Favorite Planet, The Sky is Not the Limit: Adventures of an Urban Astrophysicist, Death by Black Hole and Other Cosmic Quandaries.

A NOVA/PBS documentary, The Pluto Files, will air in March of 2010. The series will be based on Dr. Tyson’s book. It will present the controversy on the status of Pluto – is it a planet or not. Dr.Tyson has a “thing” with Pluto.

Dr. Tyson presently lives in New York City with his wife and two children and is on the Board of Directors of the Harlem Education Activities Fund. The Fund helps children from disadvantaged backgrounds develop attitudes, skills, and values which will help them lead productive lives. He says that all of his activities is part of what he calls being a “public scientist.” And, oh yes, there was one other honor that was bestowed upon him: He was voted the Sexiest Astrophysicist Alive by People Magazine in 2000.

Questions/comments? E-mail Steve: Drawingonscience @aol.com

Return to top


Email Us
Contact Us

Copyright 1999 - 2014 Wave Publishing Co. All Rights Reserved

Neighborhoods | History