News from the National Academy of Sciences

February 26, 2015

Neil deGrasse Tyson to Receive Public Welfare Medal – Academy's Most Prestigious Award

WASHINGTON — In recognition of his "extraordinary role in exciting the public about the wonders of science, from atoms to the Universe,”  the National Academy of Sciences is presenting its 2015 Public Welfare Medal to astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, and science communicator Neil deGrasse Tyson, Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium of the American Museum of Natural History.  The medal is the Academy's most prestigious award, established in 1914 and presented annually to honor extraordinary use of science for the public good.

"Through just about every form of media available, Neil deGrasse Tyson has made millions of people around the world excited about science," said Susan Wessler, home secretary for the National Academy of Sciences and chair of the selection committee for the award.  "Ultimately, the success of science depends on the public's understanding of its importance and value.  Neil masterfully conveys why science matters -- not just to a few, but to all of us."

"At a time when science is often misunderstood or ignored, Neil deGrasse Tyson is truly its most visible and most recognizable advocate," said National Academy of Sciences President Ralph J. Cicerone. "By personably and skillfully explaining the significance and the thrills of scientific discoveries, Neil has captured the public's imagination like no other scientist alive today.  We are pleased to present him our highest award."

A native New Yorker who attended public schools and graduated from the Bronx High School of Science, Tyson earned a bachelor's degree in physics from Harvard University and a Ph.D. in astrophysics from Columbia University.  Tyson's public role began when he took over directorship of the Hayden Planetarium in 1995, where he played a key role in the design of the world-class Rose Center for Earth and Space. Tyson also hosted "NOVA Origins" on PBS and was executive producer and host of "NOVA scienceNOW" for several seasons.

Most recently, Tyson served as executive editor and host for "Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey," a 13-episode, Emmy-nominated prime-time series that aired on Fox Network and was broadcast in 181 countries in 45 languages via the National Geographic Channel.  A remake of previous Public Welfare Medal recipient Carl Sagan's landmark 1980 television series, the new Cosmos originated from connections Tyson made with Sagan's widow, Ann Druyan, and Hollywood producer Seth MacFarlane through the National Academy of Sciences' Science & Entertainment Exchange. Tyson is also the host of StarTalk Radio, a commercial radio show and podcast devoted to "all things space," and a frequent guest on "The Daily Show," "CBS This Morning," and National Public Radio. In addition, Tyson recently completed recording the pilot season of the StarTalk television program.  Based on the popular podcast, it will air on the National Geographic Channel beginning in April.  He is also a popular social media presence and has more than 3 million followers on Twitter.

Tyson has also written 10 books including "Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier," "The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America's Favorite Planet," and "Death by Black Hole and Other Cosmic Quandaries," a New York Times bestseller. He is a strong advocate for the U.S. space program and served on two presidential commissions on aerospace and space exploration.

In 2007, he was named one of Time Magazine's 100 most influential people in the world.  Among his numerous awards and honors, Tyson is the recipient of 18 honorary doctorates and NASA's Distinguished Public Service Medal, the agency's highest honor for nongovernment citizens.

The Public Welfare Medal will be presented to Neil deGrasse Tyson on April 26 during the Academy's 152nd annual meeting.  More information, including a list of past recipients, is available at

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit institution that was established under a congressional charter signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. It recognizes achievement in science by election to membership, and -- with the National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council -- provides science, technology, and health policy advice to the federal government and other organizations.

Molly Galvin, Senior Media Relations Officer
Chelsea Dickson, Media Relations Assistant
Office of News and Public Information
202-334-2138; e-mail
Twitter: @NAS_news and @theNASciences
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