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Neil deGrasse Tyson

Neil deGrasse Tyson

A deeply intelligent man with an extremely personable, mediagenic style, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson became equal parts astrophysicist and media celebrity. He was born to mother Sunchita Marie Feliciano (a gerontologist) and father Cyril deGrasse Tyson, a sociologist and human resource commissioner for New York City mayor John Lindsay who also served as the first Director of Harlem Youth Opportunities Unlimited. Tyson was a product of the public school system, through to his graduation from the Bronx High School of Science. Following this, he then earned his BA in Physics from Harvard and a PhD in Astrophysics from Columbia (this despite lobbying from none other than Carl Sagan, who attempted in vain to lure Tyson To Cornell). Tyson has written for dozens of publications and authored nearly a dozen books. However, even though his professional achievements are large -- including those related to star formations, exploding stars, dwarf galaxies and the structure of the Milky Way -- he became perhaps best known for being the man held most responsible for the stripping of Pluto of its former planetary status. It was reclassified as a "dwarf planet," a move which, according to Tyson himself, prompted hate mail from several young people who had come to identify with it. His exposure during this time led to an ever-burgeoning media career, with Tyson becoming the go-to astrophysicist for several channels and programs. Beginning in the fall of 2006, he appeared for five seasons as on-camera host and off-camera executive producer for NOVA ScienceNOW (PBS 2006-2011), and also became a familiar talking head on news and comedy programs that wanted to discuss scientific topics. In 2009, Tyson began a run as host of StarTalk, a show (later a podcast) combining celebrity guests, standup comedians (and the doctor) engaging in information yet playful science banter. Tyson was named one of the "100 most influential persons in the world" by TIME in 2007 and "Sexiest Astrophysicist Alive" by People in 2000. He received NASA's Distinguished Public Service Medal in 2011, the organization's the highest award possible for a non-governmental employee.
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