Neil deGrasse Tyson: The Astrophysicist and Science Communicator

Neil deGrasse Tyson has become an internationally recognized scientist and science communicator, playing a key role in the popularization of science, astronomy and astrophysics through his various television shows, books and interviews. He has gained a following due to his unique ability to explain complex scientific topics in easy-to-understand terms, often cloaked in a humorous context. Here we look at the life of Neil deGrasse Tyson, the astrophysicist and science communicator, to uncover his journey from teenage astrophysicist to popular media figure and his field’s most recognized voice.

Early Life and Education

Neil deGrasse Tyson was born in New York City on October 5th, 1958 to Sunchita Feliciano Tyson and Cyril deGrasse Tyson. Both his parents were teachers, which likely played a role in Neil developing an affinity for learning from an early age. Growing up, an atypical feature of Neil’s early life was his decision to pursue an astrophysics degree from age 15, with where he received a private lesson from Astronomy Professor Dr. Allan H. Harvey at the Hayden Planetarium at the Museum of Natural History located across the street from his high school.

At school, Neil excelled in science, excelling in all of his classes related to the subject, earning a bachelor’s degree in Physics from Harvard University in 1980. Tyson continued his scientific education and went on to receive a master’s degree in Astronomy from the University of Texas and a PhD in Astrophysics from Columbia University.

Career Highlights

Upon graduating with his doctoral degree, Neil deGrasse Tyson took a role as a post-doctoral research associate at Princeton University, focusing on star formation, before taking a role as a staff scientist at the Hayden Planetarium in 1996, directed by the same professor who had mentored Tyson in his teenage years.

Under his directorship at the Hayden Planetarium, Tyson made a number of changes, such as the inclusion of discoveries from the Hubble Space Telescope, and more gender and racial diversity in the space presentations.

Tyson’s core work then moved to television and public speaking in 2001, when Tyson was asked to be responsible for the spin-off of Carl Sagan’s iconic ‘Cosmos’ series, creating ‘Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey’ and working as an executive editor and narrator in 2014. Snyder’s other projects are extensive, including starred in a documentary called ‘Dark Matters: Twisted But True’ and hosted a science talk show entitled ‘StarTalk’ and a science-based game show ‘Cosmic Queries’.

Importance of His Work

By majoring in astrophysics, publishing around a dozen books, and having a number of documentary and TV shows to his name, Neil deGrasse Tyson has raised the public’s fascination in science and astronomy. Neil’s perseverance and willingness to take on various projects under his name helped bring astronomy and astrophysics to the forefront of popular science, ultimately inspiring a new audience of dreamers and giving the field a voice that resonates with the public.

Tyson has made many significant contributions to astronomy and science—including his work on ‘Galactic Activities’. Despite his popularity, Tyson has not remained complacent, continuing to contribute to the field via his tweets and lectures, using his platform to break down scientific topics and make them more accessible to the general public.


Throughout his career, Neil deGrasse Tyson has accumulated a large number of awards, including eighteen honorary doctorates, medals from his career in astrophysics, and awards within communication. Below we list some of Tyson’s most notable awards:

• The NASA Distinguished Service Medal (2015);
• The Isaac Asimov Award for Excellence in Science Communication (2015);
• The National Science Board Public Service Silver Medal Award (2011);
• The Klopsteg Memorial Award from the American Association of Physics Teachers (2009);
• Meckler Prize of the American Astronomical Society (2008).

Throughout his career, Tyson has also been a prominent advocate for scientific literacy and is currently a member of the American Humanist Association.

Throughout his career, Neil deGrasse Tyson has been a pioneer in the world of science, bringing astronomy and astrophysics to the public eye and popularising them in a way that resonates with his audience. As a result, he has been the recipient of numerous awards and has collaborated on a number of projects aimed at educating the public on science, astronomy and astrophysics. His work has most importantly paved the way for the current generation of astrophysicists and Hubble astronauts, while inspiring a following of dreamers.