For many of us who grew up in the 90s, William Sanford Nye was "that guy." He was the "science guy." The American science educator and mechanical engineer inspired millions of people around the world through his funny, informative, and inventive television program, Bill Nye the Science Guy. For many young engineers, the show was an inspiring smorgasbord of scientific concepts and ideas. Nye made science accessible, exciting, and fun, educating young viewers on this wondrous and almost magical world.
But, how much do you know about Bill Nye? The scientist, entrepreneur, and entertainer is a pop culture icon as well as a vocal member of the scientific community. Aside from encouraging fans both young and old to develop their scientifically literacy, Nye also works as a scientist, tackling projects ranging from space to the environment. Today we will take a look at Bill Nye and share some facts that you might not know about the scientist.
So, who exactly is Bill Nye?
William Sanford Nye was born in Washington DC, on November 27, 1955, to Jacqueline and Edwin Darby Nye. Math and science ran in his family. Nye's mother Jacqueline was a talented mathematician and was recruited to become a codebreaker during World War II. Bill attended Cornell University, earning a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering.
Upon completing his degree, he began his career at the Boeing Company in Seattle. There he and his team developed a hydraulic pressure resonance suppressor that is still used in Boeing 747s. However, Nye had a passion for entertainment that matched his love for science.
The young engineer got his start in comedy after winning a Steve Martin look-alike contest. Working as an engineer by day and as a stand-up comedian by night, Nye eventually became a comedy writer at Almost Live. Here Nye would earn his famous moniker, "the Science Guy." Not too long after, Bill Nye, the Science Guy, would get his own PBS-produced show, where he mixed his extensive scientific knowledge with his comedic talents. From September 10, 1993, to June 20, 1998, the self-titled Bill Nye the Science Guy ran on television.
The show aimed at teaching preteens about science. Each episode would focus on a separate topic. Over its five-year period, the show won 19 Emmy Awards, with Nye receiving seven himself for writing, performing, and producing. Since the meteoric success of the show, Nye has become a household name.
He has made multiple appearances on TV series and specials
The Science Guy has a wide range of appearances and shows under his belt. He has played a science teacher in a Disney movie and on the TV crime drama Numb3rs. Nye has also appeared multiple times on Larry King Live to talk about global warming and space exploration. In 2017, with Netflix, Nye launched the show Bill Nye Saves the World. Here he explored science topics that affected everyday lives and invited both celebrity guest speakers and experts to join in on the discussions.
Nye had the opportunity to take a class with the legendary Carl Sagan
Carl Sagan probably inspired your favorite scientist. Sagan was an American astronomer, planetary scientist, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, author, poet, and science communicator. He was one of the most well-known scientists of the 1970s and 1980s. Sagan was a scientific talking head for extraterrestrial intelligence, nuclear disarmament as well as the host of the widely popular Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. While at Cornell University, Nye had the fortunate opportunity of taking a class taught by Carl Sagan. Nye has been vocal about how Sagan's passion for science would go on to inspire his goal to do the same.
The Science Guy really wanted to be an astronaut
Who hasn't wanted to be an astronaut at some point in their lives? If you have followed Bill Nye's career, you may be aware that he has two passions within science: global warming, and space. Nye has stated that he has applied four times for NASA's astronaut training program. Unfortunately, he was rejected, and has attributed this to his lack of a Ph.D.
Nye's work did make it to space
When Nye is not entertaining people, he is working as a scientist. He might have been rejected from the space program, but Nye was part of a team that designed the MarsDial. This tool, found on the Spirit and Opportunity rovers, helps calibrate color in photos taken of Mars by the rover while it is traveling in Mars' thin, reddish atmosphere.
Bill Nye has been working to improve the education system in the United States
Like Carl Sagan, Bill Nye believes that science can inspire children to go into science fields, when taught correctly. Nye wants more STEM programs to be available for people of all ages, and at every level. Being a frequent speaker at conferences for the National Science Teachers Association, Nye has been very vocal about the need to have more resources dedicated to education, and particularly STEM education. The engineer prides himself on being a lifelong learner, too.
He participated in a "greenest house" battle
His opponent was actor and environmentalist Ed Begley Jr. Nye had worked hard to make his house eco-friendly as possible and his neighbor, Begley, took that as a challenge. Both of them worked hard to outdo each other. In 2008, Nye was winning, thanks to various upgrades and solar panels. However, things changed when Begley installed his own, more efficient, solar panels on his roof. No one has officially been declared the winner, but it is safe to say that the environment won.
Bill Nye is a busy guy
The scientist has served as vice president and then as the second executive director of The Planetary Society, one of the world's largest space-interest groups. He is the face of "Bill Nye's Climate Lab," a permanent exhibition at the Chabot Space & Science Center in California. Nye is also a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, a nonprofit scientific and educational organization that aims to promote scientific inquiry and critical investigation. In addition to being a visiting Professor at Cornell, Nye has consistently used his platform as an entertainer to inspire scientific thought and combat scientific illiteracy.