Neil deGrasse Tyson

born: 1959

place: Bronx, New York

pre-doctoral education: B.A. from Harvard University (1980 physics); MS University of Texas at Austin ( )

doctorate: Ph.D. from Columbia University (Astrophysics).

current employment. Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History.

Public Books & Research

Speaks on Interests and on Pluto

home page:

With more than 60 televised interviews, a regular column on astronomy in the science magazine Natural History, six books on astronomy, and in his high profile job as the youngest ever director of the world-class Hayden Planetarium in New York City, Neil de Grasse Tyson has over the past several years become the nation's most recognized astrophysicist. Tall, personable, outgoing and blessed with the ability to translate complex cosmic phenomena into something everyday people can grasp.

Neil Tyson realized that he wanted to study space science when he was a young boy looking up at the moon through a pair of binoculars. At the age of nine, when he traveled from the Bronx to sit for his first clear view of the night sky under the old Hayden planetarium dome, Neil De Grasse Tyson was formally introduced to the stars. His interest in science was not supported by his community, however; in Neil's New York City neighborhood, African-American boys were expected to be athletes, not scholars. In the streets of New York City, "being smart is not on the list of things that gets you respect," he recalls. Neil played sports with his friends, while also pursuing his interest in science. When he was thirteen, Neil went to summer astronomy camp in the Mohave Desert, where the sky was clear and he could see millions of stars. At the Bronx High School of Science, he focused his studies on astrophysics.

Being a gifted athlete did not sidetrack his childhood ambition. At Harvard University, Neil majored in physics, rowed on the crew team, joined the wrestling team and earned a Bachelor's degree in Physics. He earned a Master's degree from the University of Texas at Austin, and then went home to New York to do his doctoral work at Columbia. as an astrophysicist and research scientist at Princeton University, as a columnist for Stardate magazine, and, from 1996, as the acting director of the American Museum of Natural History-Hayden Planetarium.

Tyson published the first of six books on astronomy and astrophysics in 1988. In his latest book, an autobiography titled The Sky is not the Limit (Doubleday, 2000), he enthralls the reader with his interpretations of the universe, but in the chapter "Dark Matter" brings us down to Earth reminding us what it is like being a Black male in America where ven a highly educated and visible scientist like himself is forced to endure indignities provoked by suspicious cops, shop owners, cabbies, and cocktail party bores who assume he is less intelligent, less law-abiding, and less deserving because of his skin color.

Neil's work focuses primarily on two areas, dwarf galaxies (which are less than one-tenth the size of our "normal" Milky Way galaxy) and the "bulge" at the center of the Milky Way. To conduct his research, Neil has used telescopes all over the world. Today, Neil has a full and varied life. He is married, collects fine wines, continues to wrestle, and to study the stars. He shares his knowledge about the universe in many ways:. To help non-scientists understand the universe, Neil has published two books and is writing two more.

On his role as an African-American scientist, he says that more is expected of him because of his race. "There's an extra social tax I have to pay," he says. "It's not a burden, I just pay the tax."  

Now he is the youngest director in the Hayden Planetarium's long history.

In 2004 Dr. Tyson was selected as one of the 50 Most Important Blacks in Research Science.


Hayden Planetarium

Books for the public

  1. Neil deGrasse Tyson.
  2. Neil deGrasse Tyson, Charles Liu, & Robert Irion, One Universe: At Home in the Cosmos, Joseph Henry Press of the National Academy of Sciences. The connections of astrophysics with everyday life. The companion book to the opening of the new Hayden Planetarium and Rose Center for Earth and Space. 2000
  3. Neil deGrasse Tyson, The Sky Is Not the Limit: Adventures of an Urban Astrophysicist, Doubleday (New York). Autobiographical reflections 2000.
  4. Neil deGrasse Tyson , Just Visiting this Planet, 334 pgs, Doubleday (New York)1998, A collection of six years from a Q & A column written monthly for Star Date Magazine. Sequel to Merlin's Tour of the Universe (see below) that contains chapters of questions about astronomy and space asked by the general public and answered through the pen name "Merlin". (Italian Translation: 1998 - Piemme, Italy).
  5. Neil deGrasse Tyson, Universe Down to Earth, 276 pgs. Columbia University Press (New York) 1994. Essays on special topics in astronomy that evolved principally from invited talks and lectures delivered for introductory college astronomy classes at Columbia University, University of Maryland, and University of Texas. The book uses creative "household" analogies to help bring complex topics of the universe to the lay reader.
  6. Neil deGrasse Tyson Merlin's Tour of the Universe, 300 pgs. Columbia University Press (New
    York) 1989. (Paperback: 1997 - Main Street Press, an imprint of Doubleday, New York) (Italian Translation: 1998 - Piemme, Italy) (Polish Translation: 1998 - Proszynski Ska, Warsaw) (German Translation: 1997 - Piper Verlag, Munich) (Spanish Translation: 1993- Selector Press, Mexico City) (Japanese Translation: 1991 - Tokyo Tojo Press, Tokyo) Thirteen chapters of questions about astronomy and space asked by the general public and answered through the pen name "Merlin"


  1. P. Lira, et al. 1998, "Optical Light Curves of the Type Ia Supernovae 1990N and 1991T", Astronomical Journal 115, 234
  2. M. Hamuy, et al. 1996, "BVRI Light Curves For 29 Type Ia Supernovae", Astronomical Journal 112, 2408
  3. L. A. Wells, et al. 1994, "The Type Ia Supernova 1989B in NGC3627 (M66)" Astronomical Journal 108, 2233
  4. B. P. Schmidt, et al. 1994, "The Expanding Photosphere Method Applied to SN1992am at cz = 14600 km s-1" Astronomical Journal 107, 1444
  5. Neil D. Tyson, Michael W. Richmond, Michael Woodhams, & Luca Ciotti 1993 "On the Possibility of a Major Impact on the Uranus in the Past Century" Astronomy & Astrophysics (Research Notes) 275, 630
  6. Neil D. Tyson & Roy R. Gal 1993, "An Exposure Guide for Taking Twilight Flatfields with Large Format CCDs" Astronomical Journal 105, 1206
  7. Neil D. Tyson & R. Michael Rich 1991, "Radial Velocity Distribution and Line Strengths of 33 Carbon Stars in the Galactic Bulge", Astrophysical Journal 367, 547
  8. Neil D. Tyson 1988, "On the possibility of Gas-Rich Dwarf Galaxies in the Lyman-alpha Forest", Astrophysical Journal (Letters) 329, L57
  9. Neil D. Tyson & John M. Scalo 1988, "Bursting Dwarf Galaxies: Implications for Luminosity Function,Space Density, and Cosmological Mass Density", Astrophysical Journal 329, 618
  10. Bruce A. Twarog & Neil D. Tyson 1985, "uvby Photometry of Blue Stragglers in NGC 7789", Astronomical Journal 90, 1247


Papers in Preparation

2. Neil D. Tyson, Peter Bloser, A. Udalski, M. Szymanski, J. Kaluzny, M. Kubiak, & Mario Mateo 1999 "An Upper Limit to the Rate of Intergalactic Supernovae" in preparation for the Astrophysical Journal

1. Neil D. Tyson, Peter Bloser, A. Udalski, M. Szymanski, J. Kaluzny, M. Kubiak, & Mario Mateo 1999, "An Estimate of the Supernova Rate Among Thirty-one Abell Clusters Between 0.02 < z $lt 0.08", in
preparation for the Astrophysical Journal.


College Park, Maryland
7. Neil D. Tyson 1996, "An Unbiased Estimate of the Supernova rate among 31 Abell Clusters" in Clusters, Lensing, and the future of the Universe, ed. V. Trimble, ASP Conference Series Vol. 88, (San Francisco: ASP), p 69.
Ghent, Belgium

6. Neil D. Tyson & R. Michael Rich 1994, "A Study of the Abundance distributions Along the Minor Axis in the Galactic Bulge", in Galactic Bulges, IAU Symposium no. 153, (Dordrecht: Kluwer), p 333. Capetown, South Africa (Travel and Accommodations paid by a Grant from the South African Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

5. Neil D. Tyson 1992, "Velocity Distributions of Stellar Species in the Galactic Bulge: Implications for Bulge Kinematics", in Variable Stars and Galaxies, ed. B. Warner, ASP Conference Series vol. 30, (San Francisco: ASP), p 37. Schenectady, New York

4. Neil D. Tyson 1991, "Washington CCD Photometry: Abundance Distributions in Different Latitudes Toward the Galactic Bulge", in Precision Photometry: Astrophysics of the Galaxy, eds. A. G. Davis Philip, A. R. Upgren, & K. A. Janes, (Schenectady: L. Davis Press), p 193. La Serena, Chile

Neil D. Tyson & R. Michael Rich 1991, "Spectra and Velocity Distribution of Carbon Stars in the Galactic
Bulge", in Bulges of Galaxies, eds. V. Blanco, J. Frogel, and D. Terndrup (La Serena, Chile: Proceedings
of the first ESO-CTIO Workshop), p 119.
Elba, Italy

Neil D. Tyson & R. Michael Rich 1990, "Velocity Distribution of Carbon Stars in the Galactic Bulge", in Chemical and Dynamical Evolution of Galaxies, eds. F. Ferrini, J. Franco, F. Matteucci. (Elba, Italy: Proceedings of the Elba International Physics Center), p 150. Baltimore, Maryland

1. Neil D. Tyson 1987, " Dwarf Galaxies in the Lyman-a Forest of QSOs", in QSO Absorption Lines: Probing the Universe - 1, STScI Workshop Proceedings, eds. C. Blades, C. Norman, D. Turnshek, (Baltimore: STScI), p 45.

references: Fikes: From Banneker to Best: Some Stellar Careers In Astronomy and Astrophysics; numerous web pages including those at the Hayden planetarium


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