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Tyson, Neil de Grasse(1958–) - Astrophysicist, writer, Chronology

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Neil de Grasse Tyson, an astrophysicist and writer, is the Frederick P. Rose director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. He is also a research associate in the Department of Astrophysics in the museum. Tyson’s position brings him full circle in a career which can be argued to have begun with his childhood visits to the Hayden Planetarium. His commitments to academic inquiry and public service in the field of astrophysics have brought him national recognition. In fact, his contributions to the general public’s understanding of astro-physical phenomena have elevated his profile in the media. His publications include both works devoted to general understandings of astrophysics, especially for young adults, and scholarly works. He has commented on scientific issues on national news programs and twice has been appointed to presidential commissions.

Neil de Grasse Tyson was born on October 5, 1958 in New York City, and was raised in the Bronx. His mother, Sunchita Feliciano Tyson, is a gerontologist, a specialist in aging, for the Department of Health and Human Services. His father, Cyril de Grasse Tyson, is a retired sociologist. In his 2004 memoir The Sky Is Not the Limit: Adventures of an Urban Astrophysicist , Tyson explains that his elementary school teachers said that young Tyson showed more interests in social interaction with his classmates than in his lessons. His visits to Hayden Planetarium and his participation in classes for young adults at the planetarium helped to ground him. These experiences drew the young Tyson to astronomy and physics. He became more focused in his studies and determined to be an astrophysicist.

During the 1970s, Tyson traveled to Africa and Europe on scholarship. He attended the Bronx High School of Science where he emphasized astrophysics. In high school, he began wrestling and served as captain of the varsity wrestling team. He graduated from the high school in 1976. He attended Harvard University where he majored in physics. He continued to wrestle and was a member of Harvard’s varsity wrestling team. He graduated with a BA. in physics in 1980. In 1983, he earned his MA. degree in astrophysics from the University of Texas in Austin, Texas. His area of research was star formation models for dwarf galaxies. In 1988, Tyson married Alice Young, a mathematical physicist. They have two children. In 1991, Tyson earned his Ph.D. in astrophysics from Columbia University in New York. His area of research was galactic bulge-chemical evolution, abundances, and structure.

While in Texas, Tyson began doing radio commentary on phenomena in outer space. He also began writing a column for Star Date magazine in which he responded to questions on space and science. In 1987, he accepted a position as lecturer for the Department of Astronomy at the University of Maryland at College Park. After completing his doctoral studies, he accepted a postdoctoral position as research associate in the Department of Astrophysics at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey. From 1994 through 2003, he worked at Princeton University, initially as a visiting research scientist and lecturer and later as an associate professor in the Department of Astrophysics. He also began working for the American Museum at the Hayden Planetarium in 1994. Initially employed as a staff scientist, he later became acting director. From 1996 through 1997, he chaired the Department of Astrophysics at the museum. In 1996, he became the Frederick P. Rose director of the museum and planetarium; in addition, he is a research associate in the Department of Astrophysics at the museum.

Chronology

1958

Born in New York, New York on October 5

1976

Graduates from the Bronx High School of Science in Bronx, New York

1980

Receives B.A. in physics from Harvard University

1983

Receives M.A. in astronomy from University of Texas in Austin, Texas

1987

Serves as lecturer in the Department of Astronomy, University of Maryland

1988

Marries Alice Young, a mathematical physicist

1991

Receives Ph.D. in astrophysics from Columbia University, New York; appointed postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Astrophysics, Princeton University

1994

Serves as visiting research scientist and lecturer in the Department of Astrophysics, Princeton University

1995

Serves as Frederick P. Rose director and astrophysicist for the Hayden Planetarium of the American Museum of Natural History in New York

2001

Wins the American Institute of Physics, 2001 Science Writing Award for One Universe at Home in the Cosmos; appointed by President George W. Bush to a twelve-member commission to study the future of the United States Aerospace Industry

2003

Continues as director of the Hayden Planetarium and also accepts position as research associate, Department of Astrophysics, American Museum of Natural History in New York

2004

Appointed by President George W. Bush to nine-member commission on the Implementation of the United States Exploration Policy

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