On this date in 1955, scientist, engineer, comedian, author, television personality and inventor, William Sanford "Bill" Nye was born in Washington, D.C., where he was also raised. Nye, "America's stand-up scientist," says on his website that his parents fostered his interest in science. Nye's father was a prisoner of war during World War II, and his mother was a Navy codebreaker who excelled in math and science. In 1977, Nye earned a degree in mechanical engineering from Cornell University, where one of his professors was Carl Sagan. He then moved to Seattle to work as an engineer at Boeing. Nye invented a special sundial used during the Mars Exploration Rover mission, and engineered a hydraulic device for Boeing still used on the 747. During this time, Nye cultivated his comedy style, working nights as a stand-up comic, and eventually he quit Boeing to work as a comedy writer and performer on a Seattle ensemble show, "Almost Live." From this show, Nye and several others founded the incredibly popular educational television series, "Bill Nye the Science Guy" (1993-1997). The show won 18 Emmy Awards in its five year run, and Nye, who wrote, starred in, and produced the show, picked up seven of those Emmys. Nye has written five children's books, created several other television shows and currently hosts three television series, including "The 100 Greatest Discoveries" on the Science Channel, "The Eyes of Nye" on PBS and "Stuff Happens" on Planet Green. He currently serves as the Executive Director of the Planetary Society. Nye was honored in 2010 as Humanist of the Year by the American Humanist Association for his role "as an activist for solid scientific policies to sustain society" (The Humanist magazine, Nov./Dec. 2010). "Science is the best idea humans have ever had," Nye said during his acceptance speech. According to Popular Science magazine, "the Science Guy" angered audience members at a lecture in Waco, Texas, after he criticized a literal interpretation of the bible ("Bill Nye vs. Intelligent Design," April 7, 2006).
"Science is the key to our future, and if you don't believe in science, then you're holding everybody back. And it's fine if you as an adult want to run around pretending or claiming that you don't believe in evolution, but if we educate a generation of people who don't believe in science, that's a recipe for disaster. . . . The main idea in all of biology is evolution. To not teach it to our young people is wrong."
—Bill Nye quoted in a Popular Mechanics article, "Science Guy Bill Nye Explains Why Evolution Belongs in Science Education," by Sarah Fecht, Feb. 4, 2011
Compiled by Bonnie Gutsch; Photo by Phil Stafford, Shutterstock.com
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