Black News and News Makers in History: Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson

African American news from Pasadena - Black News and News Makers in History recognizes Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson this week in Black history.Neil deGrasse Tyson was born on October 5, 1958 in New York City. He is an astrophysicist and, since 1996, the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History on Manhattan's Upper West Side. Since 2006, he has hosted PBS's educational TV show NOVA scienceNOW.

Tyson attended the Bronx High School of Science (1973-1976) where he captained the wrestling team and was editor-in-chief of the school's Physical Science Journal. He had an abiding interest in astronomy from a young age – and obsessively studied it in his teens – eventually even gaining some fame in the astronomy community by giving lectures on the subject at the age of 15.

Tyson has stated that his interest in astronomy began when he would climb to the top floor of his New York City apartment building (ironically named the "Skyview Apartments") and look at the moon through binoculars.

Astronomer Carl Sagan, who was a faculty member at Cornell University, tried to recruit Tyson at Cornell for undergraduate studies, but Tyson chose to attend Harvard, where he majored in physics. He was a member of the crew team in his freshman year, but returned to wrestling, eventually lettering in his senior year.

Tyson earned his B.A. in physics from Harvard in 1980 and began his graduate work at the University of Texas at Austin, where he earned his M.A. in Astronomy in 1983. In addition to wrestling and rowing in college, he was also active in dancing in styles including jazz, ballet, Afro-Caribbean, and Latin Ballroom. In 1985, he won a gold medal with the University of Texas dance team at a national tournament in the International Latin Ballroom style.

He began a doctoral program at the University of Texas, but transferred in 1988 to Columbia, earning a Ph.D. degree in astrophysics from that institution in 1991.

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 for the magazine, the authored in 2002, Tyson coined the term "Manhattanhenge" to describe the two days annually on which the evening sun aligns with the cross streets of the grid in Manhattan, making sunset visible along unobsructed side streets.

In 2001, 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. He was soon afterwards awarded the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal, the highest civilian honor bestowed by NASA.

In 2004, he hosted the four-part "Origins" miniseries of PBS's "Nova", and co-authored, with Donald Goldsmith (renowned California astronomer and science writer/professor) the companion volume for the series, "Origins: Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution".

As director of the Hayden Planetarium, Tyson bucked tradition thinking to keep Pluto from being referred to as the ninth planet in exhibits at the center. He has stated on "The Colbert Report" that this decision has resulted in large amounts of hate mail, much of it from children. In 2006, the I.A.U. confirmed this assessment by downgrading Pluto to "dwarf planet" classification.

Tyson is President of the Planetary Society, where he was formerly the Chair of the Board. He is the new host of the PBS program "NOVA scienceNOW".

Tyson is a vocal critic of string theory; his opposition comes from the seeming over-reliance of string theory upon mathematical projections instead of testable variables.

He attended and was a speaker at the Beyond Belief symposium on November 2006.

Excerpts from http://www.anothershadeofcolor.com.

On a personal note, Dr. Tyson is not only informative, but extremely personable, engaging and inspirational.