In the era of fake news, science needs all the help it can get. Thankfully, one of the world’s best science communicators, Bill Nye, is still going strong 25 years after his signature show debuted on public television.
“Bill Nye the Science Guy” premiered on Sept. 10, 1993, on PBS. It ran through 1998, becoming one of the most popular science shows in the U.S., and was aired in countless classrooms across the nation. Nov. 27 was Bill Nye’s birthday — he turned 63 — so what better time to look back at his impressive accomplishments and some great Bill Nye facts?
Birth of the Science Guy
Nye grew up in Washington, D.C., and showed an early aptitude for math and engineering, spending hours taking bicycles apart to see how they worked. It was at Cornell University, where he studied mechanical engineering, that Nye took an astronomy class with Carl Sagan. That ignited a lifelong passion for space; Nye is now CEO of the Planetary Society, the world’s largest nonprofit group dedicated to space exploration.
During a stint as an engineer at Boeing, Nye invented his own aircraft part: a hydraulic resonance suppressor tube used on the Boeing 747, according to Geek.com. That wasn’t his only invention. Years later, he invented a ballet shoe that includes a “toe box” that provides support to ballerinas doing en pointe dancing. Among the lesser-known Bill Nye facts: he has three U.S. patents. He also helped develop sundials that have been used on the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity.
Never one to rest on his laurels, Nye began doing standup comedy in Seattle, based on his resemblance to, and ability to impersonate, Steve Martin. Nye quickly learned to mix humor with his zeal for science and incorporated both into his fledgling TV writing career, said Geek.com.
The results were golden: “Bill Nye the Science Guy” earned Nye seven Emmy Awards, and the show won 18 Emmys total in its five-year run. The program had many memorable moments, such as when Nye donned his “rocker wig of science” to demonstrate how static electricity works.
Time To Save the World
By making science fun and interesting, Nye’s television program inspired kids around the world. Nye has also promoted science education through eight children’s books. His crusade against anti-scientific thinking was highlighted in the 2017 documentary “Bill Nye: Science Guy.” In it, astrophysicist and fellow science communicator Neil deGrasse Tyson, host of “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey,” said of Nye’s passion: “The ‘Science Guy’ show contained the science that excited Bill, and you the viewer can’t help but be just as excited as the instructor.”
Nye’s signature lab coat, bow tie and Bunsen burners have been back in the spotlight with “Bill Nye Saves the World,” which debuted on Netflix the same year. The show is focused on the perils of global warming. It’s aimed at adults, not kids, and it has already tackled everything from engineering new body parts to how to survive in a world without potable water, all delivered with a heady cocktail of facts, humor and passion. Witness Nye getting in your face with the camera, yelling, “I’m ranting about climate change again — you got a problem with that?”
“For me, curiosity is part of what makes us human,” Nye said during the pilot episode. “It’s what drives us — the joy of discovery. It’s the essence of science!”
So with Bill Nye’s birthday close behind us, here’s a tip of the hat to this tireless defender of science.