Objective: “change the world”
This was the mission that Bill Nye (the famous teacher, science educator, comedian, and author) set out on nearly 21 years ago. Since 1992, Bill Nye has been a key figure in science education, as well as a public icon for science and what it means to think critically – If you were around in the 1990s, you know Bill Nye simply as, The Science Guy.
Attaining the title of “ The Science Guy”
William Sanford Nye, or ‘Bill’ Nye was born in Washington D.C., November 27, 1955. Bill’s mother, adept at science and math, worked as a code-breaker during WWII. His father, a veteran of the war, was held prisoner for four years in a war camp without electricity. Nye’s father became a sundial enthusiast, which he naturally passed onto Bill. During his teenage years, Bill was accepted to the prestigious Sidwell Friends School, which has a reputation of being the “Harvard of Washington’s private schools;” this is the school that the children of many US presidents attended.
Bill went on to university at Cornell to study mechanical engineering, graduating with a Bachelor's of Science in Mechanical Engineering. Satisfying his childhood fascination with aircraft, Bill moved to Seattle and worked for Boeing, for whom he created a hydraulic pressure resonance suppressor (engineering is exciting!), which is still used in the Boeing 747 today.
Ok, ok – So how does one go from working as an engineer at Boeing, to being the enthusiastic, energetic, and highly passionate “Science Guy”? in 1986, Bill’s career took a drastic turn, when he appeared on a local Seattle comedy television show called “Almost Live,” which led to his famous naming of “Science Guy.” During the show, Nye attempted to correct the host’s pronunciation of “jigowatt” (gigawatt) for which the host responded: “Who do you think you are? Bill Nye The Science Guy?”, the name stuck ever since and Bill went on to be an engineer by day, and comedian by night.
The “Science Guy” years:
In 1992, bill proposed an educational T.V. show for a pre-teen audience, which became a reality in September 1993.
The show was armed with the knowledge of many scientific topics and Bill’s natural affinity for comedy. Each episode of Bill’s television show, “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” focused on a specific scientific topic using fun visuals, humor, and a thorough explanation.
Bill got many kids more excited about science and the natural world while making sure the raw information got through, he quickly became a sensation with youth acting as the iconic "fun" scientist. The show is still used often in schools as an educational tool for its ability to incite and inspire young scientists. The series won 18 Emmy during its 100 episode run, Nye received 7 Emmys himself for writing and producing the show.
Bill’s love for spreading education didn’t stop there, he went on to do many other television shows, including “The Eyes of Nye,” a science show aimed more towards an older teen audience, the Planet Green Network's "Stuff Happens," as well as hosting various programs like the "100 Greatest Discoveries" – Even making an appearance recently on the show “Dancing with the Stars".
Bill beyond T.V.: Bill Nye the Planetary Guy
Nye has done much more than appear as a guest on random shows and produce educational TV. He’s written several books for a range of audiences, all of which reveal how “way cool” science can be. Bill also actually works as a scientist!
I know it may seem crazy, but this sensational media-based scientist, actually does science.
Nye has a few inventions under his belt, one being a sundial, which was used in the Mars exploration missions. Bill Nye also had the pleasure of studying under Carl Sagan at Cornell University, which undoubtedly played a part in Bill joining the board of directors for the The Planetary Society, which Sagan is one of the founding members.
Bill then went on to become the societies’ vice president, and eventually its first CEO (Bill has a nice little bio page here). Adding to Nye's accomplishments, he’s a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, a non-profit group who promotes scientific literacy and critical investigation. Bill also holds three honorary doctorate degrees, and a professorship at the Frank H. T. Rhodes Visiting Professorship at Cornell.
Bill Nye “The Science Guy” has been a science culture icon since the mid ‘90s, he holds the philosophy that the more the population is educated, the better off the world will be. Nye has spoken out for science over the years, using television, literature, and his reputation to get a generation of people (who are now in their twenties) excited about science, so that we have more scientists and more scientific literacy.
Whether it’s filming a pre-teen science show in a warehouse in Seattle, starting a science club, or just asking penetrating questions, everyone (regardless of education) can help to change the world. Bill Nye fought, and continues to fight, for science, don’t let him tackle this alone – fight for your own mind, for your own education, and keep wondering about the universe. Even if it seems silly, ask those simple questions… Like-
"why does Bill wear his iconic bow-ties?".