In 1914, the National Academy of Sciences established its Public Welfare Medal, given to those “who have worked tirelessly to promote science for the benefit of humanity.” In 1994, just two years before his untimely death, Carl Sagan received the medal for “his ability to communicate the wonder and importance of science, to capture the imagination of so many, and to explain difficult concepts of science in understandable terms.”
Now, 21 years after Sagan, his spiritual successor Neil deGrasse Tyson is to be awarded the same medal for “exciting the public about the wonders of science, from atoms to the Universe.”
According to a press release published by the NAS today, Dr. Tyson is simply science’s “most visible and most recognizable advocate” during a time when science is under more fire from unreason than ever.
Dr. Tyson’s rise to science rockstardom has been undoubtedly phenomenal. After getting his Ph.D. in astrophysics, he soon took over as director of New York’s Hayden Planetarium in 1995. Since then, Tyson has hosted TV shows like NOVA scienceNOW and the wildly successful and ambitious COSMOS: A Spacetime Odyssey, published 10 books including Death By Black Hole, appeared as a reoccurring expert on The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, hosts the hugely popular podcast StarTalk Radio, tweets to over three million followers, and will soon premier a new show StarTalk on National Geographic.
In short, Dr. Tyson is advancing the public understanding of science everywhere he goes, and he goes everywhere.
Dr. Tyson is the first recipient of the Public Welfare award since Carl Sagan who will be recognized specifically for engaging the public. The medal will be presented to our personal astrophysicist on April 26 during the Academy’s 152nd annual meeting.