Bill Nye

Bill Nye
Bill Nye

Nye at Bridgewater State University in 2007
Born November 27, 1955 (1955-11-27) (age 55)[1]
Washington, D.C.[1]
Residence Los Angeles
Fields Mechanical engineering
Institutions Boeing
Cornell University
Planetary Society
Alma mater Cornell University (BS)
Known for Bill Nye the Science Guy

William Sanford "Bill" Nye (born November 27, 1955),[2] popularly known as Bill Nye the Science Guy, is an American science educator, comedian, television host, actor, mechanical engineer, and scientist. He is best known as the host of the Disney and PBS Kids children's science show Bill Nye the Science Guy (1993–1998) and for his many subsequent appearances in popular media as a science educator.


Early life and career

William Sanford Nye was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Jacqueline (née Jenkins; c. 1920–2000), a codebreaker during World War II, and Edwin Darby "Ned" Nye (died 1997), also a World War II veteran whose experience in a Japanese prisoner of war camp led him to become a sundial enthusiast.[3][4][5] Nye is a fourth-generation Washington, D.C. resident on his father's side of the family. After attending Lafayette Elementary and Alice Deal Junior High in the city, he was accepted to the private Sidwell Friends School on a partial scholarship, graduating in 1973.[6][7] He studied mechanical engineering at Cornell University, where one of his professors was Carl Sagan,[8] and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in 1977.[9] He was awarded an honorary doctorate by The Johns Hopkins University in May 2008. In May 2011, Nye was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Science degree from Willamette University where he was the keynote speaker for that year's commencement exercises.[10]

Nye began his career in Seattle at Boeing, where, among other things, he starred in training films and developed a hydraulic pressure resonance suppressor still used in the 747. Later he worked as a consultant in the aeronautics industry. Nye told the St. Petersburg Times in 1999 that he applied to be a NASA astronaut every few years but was always rejected.[11]

The Science Guy

Nye began his professional entertainment career as an actor on a local sketch comedy television show in Seattle, Almost Live!; Nye attempted to correct the host of Almost Live! after the host pronounced "gigawatt" as "jigowatt."[12][13] The character name came from the host's comment "Who do you think you are—Bill Nye the Science Guy?" and Nye was thereafter known as such on the program. His other main recurring role on Almost Live! was as Speedwalker, a speedwalking Seattle superhero.

Coincidentally, in 1991–93 he appeared in the live-action educational segments of Back to the Future: The Animated Series with a nonspeaking role as an assistant to Dr. Emmett Brown, played by Christopher Lloyd, in which he would demonstrate science with Lloyd's voice-over. The segments' national popularity led to Nye's hosting the educational television program Bill Nye the Science Guy from 1993 to 1998. Each of the 100 episodes aimed to teach a specific topic in science to a preteen audience, yet it garnered a wide adult audience as well. The show was very popular as a school resource and is still used to this day. He has written several books as The Science Guy. In addition to hosting the show, he was also a writer and producer for the series, which was filmed entirely in Seattle.

When portraying "the Science Guy", Nye wears a light blue lab coat and a bow tie and takes on the persona of an excited, jocular science educator. This popular image of Nye has been parodied by numerous sources, including the webcomic xkcd[14] and the satirical news organization The Onion.[15][16] In response to the fake headline "Crack Nearly Killed Me," Nye took the joke in good humor and sent The Onion an email thanking them for "dealing compassionately with this matter."[17]

He appeared in his Science Guy persona alongside Ellen DeGeneres and Alex Trebek in Ellen's Energy Adventure, an attraction that has played since 1996 at the Universe of Energy pavilion inside Epcot at Walt Disney World. He also has a voice-over at the DINOSAUR attraction in Disney's Animal Kingdom park, where he tells guests about the dinosaurs while they queue for the ride. In addition, he appears in the "Design Lab" of CyberSpace Mountain inside DisneyQuest at Walt Disney World, where he refers to himself as "Bill Nye the Coaster Guy."

Post-Science Guy career

Nye remained interested in science education through entertainment. He created a 13-episode PBS KCTS-TV series about science, called The Eyes of Nye, aimed at an older audience than his previous show had been. Airing in 2005, it often featured episodes based on politically relevant themes such as genetically modified food, global warming, and race.

He played a science teacher in Disney's 1998 TV movie The Principal Takes a Holiday; he made a hovercraft in order to demonstrate science in an unusual classroom manner. From 2000 to 2002, Nye was the technical expert in BattleBots. In 2004 and 2005, Nye hosted 100 Greatest Discoveries, an award-winning series produced by THINKFilm for The Science Channel and in high definition on the Discovery HD Theater. He was also host of an eight-part Discovery Channel series called Greatest Inventions with Bill Nye.

Nye has guest-starred in several episodes of the crime drama Numb3rs as an engineering faculty member. A lecture Nye gave several years ago on exciting children about math was an inspiration for creating the Numb3rs show.[18]

Bill joined the American Optometric Association in a multimedia advertising campaign to educate parents on the importance of getting their children a comprehensive eye examination.[19]

He was a regular in TV Land discussions. He has also made guest appearances on the VH1 reality show America's Most Smartest Model.[20]

Nye appears in segments of The Climate Code on The Weather Channel, telling his personal ways of saving energy. He still makes regular appearances on the show, often asking quiz questions.

As of fall 2008, Nye also appears on the daytime game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire as part of the show's reintroduced "Ask the Expert" lifeline. He currently hosts Stuff Happens, a show on the new Planet Green network.

In November 2008, Nye appeared in an acting role as himself in the fifth-season episode "Brain Storm" of Stargate Atlantis alongside fellow television personality and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.[21]

Nye has appeared numerous times on the talk show Larry King Live, speaking about topics such as global warming[22] and UFOs.[23] He argued that global warming is an issue that should be addressed by governments of the world in part because it could be implicated in the record-setting 2005 Atlantic hurricane season. On UFOs he has been skeptical of extraterrestrial explanations for sightings such as those at Roswell and Malmstrom Air Force Base in 1967.

In 2009, portions of Bill Nye's shows were used as lyrics and portions of the second Symphony of Science science education music video by composer John Boswell.

Nye recorded a short YouTube video (as himself, not his TV persona) advocating clean energy climate change legislation on behalf of Al Gore's Repower America campaign in October 2009.[24]

Nye (as his TV persona) also made a guest appearance on The Dr. Oz Show.

On March 12, 2011, Nye made an appearance on CNN to discuss the evolving nuclear incidents in Japan as a result of the devastating earthquake and tsunami there. Nye erroneously stated that cesium is used to "slow and control" the nuclear reaction. [25] In reality, cesium (specifically cesium-137) is a nuclear fission product, not a control rod material. Nye also erroneously stated that the nuclear reactor involved in the Three Mile Island incident is still running and that the use of boron to slow the nuclear chain reaction is uncommon, when in fact boron-10 is commonly used in control rods, and is circulated in the coolant of reactors in the United States, as well as stored on site as a method of emergency shutdown.[26][27]

A solar noon clock atop Rhodes Hall was gifted from Nye to Cornell on Aug. 27 following a public lecture that filled the 715-seat Statler Auditorium. Nye talked about his father's passion for sundials and timekeeping, his time at Cornell, his work on the sundials mounted on the Mars rovers and the story behind the Bill Nye Solar Noon Clock. [28]

Life outside television

Nye speaking in 2010.

In the early 2000s, Nye assisted in the development of a small sundial that was included in the Mars Exploration Rover missions. Known as MarsDial, it included small colored panels to provide a basis for color calibration in addition to helping keep track of time.[29] From 2005 to 2010 Nye was the vice president of The Planetary Society, an organization that advocates space science research and the exploration of other planets, particularly Mars.[30] He became the organization's second Executive Director in September 2010 when Louis Friedman stepped down.[31][32]

In November 2010, Nye became the face of a new permanent exhibition at the Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland, CA. Bill Nye’s Climate Lab features Nye as commander of the Clean Energy Space Station, and invites visitors on an urgent mission to thwart climate change. Beginning with a view of Planet Earth from space, visitors explore air, water, and land galleries to discover how climate change affects Earth’s connected systems, and how to use the Sun, wind, land, and water to generate clean energy. In an interview about the exhibit, Nye said, “Everything in the exhibit is geared to showing you that the size of the problem of climate change is big. Showing you a lot about energy use... It’s a huge opportunity... We need young people, entrepreneurs, young inventors, young innovators to change the world.” [33]

He holds several United States patents,[34] including one for ballet pointe shoes[30] and another for an educational magnifying glass created by filling a clear plastic bag with water.[35][36] From 2001–2006 Nye served as Frank H.T. Rhodes Class of '56 University Professor at Cornell University.[9][37] Nye supported the 2006 reclassification of Pluto from a planet to a dwarf planet by the International Astronomical Union.[38]

Since 2006, Nye has lived in Los Angeles in a house with modifications, though has owned a house on Mercer Island.[citation needed] As of July 2007, Nye and environmental activist Ed Begley, Jr. are engaging in a friendly competition "to see who could have the lowest carbon footprint," according to Begley.[39] In a 2008 interview, Nye joked that he wants to "crush Ed Begley" in their environmental competition.[40] Nye and Begley are neighbors in Los Angeles, and sometimes dine together at a local vegetarian restaurant.[40] Nye often appears on Begley's Planet Green reality show Living with Ed.

Nye made an appearance in Palmdale's 2010 video "Here Comes the Summer"[41]; the band's lead singer Kay Hanley is his neighbor.

Nye is a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, a U.S. non-profit scientific and educational organization whose aim is to promote scientific inquiry, critical investigation, and the use of reason in examining controversial and extraordinary claims.[42]

Interviewed by John Rael for the Independent Investigation Group IIG, Nye stated that his "concern right now... scientific illiteracy... you don't [the public] have enough rudimentary knowledge of the universe to evaluate claims."[43]

Personal life

Nye announced his engagement during an appearance on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson and was married briefly to his fiancée of five months, author Blair Tindall, on February 3, 2006. The ceremony was performed by Rick Warren at The Entertainment Gathering at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. Yo-Yo Ma provided the music.[44] Nye left the relationship seven weeks later when the marriage license was declared invalid;[45] their impromptu ceremony, which preceded the license purchase, violated California state law, said Tindall in a radio interview.[46]

Nye enjoys baseball and occasionally does experiments involving the physics of the game. As a longtime Seattle resident before becoming an entertainer, he is said to have been a fan of the Seattle Mariners, although recently he has voiced his preference (as a D.C. native) for the Washington Nationals.[6]


  1. ^ a b "Bill Nye". Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. Volume 64. 1 September 2005. Gale. Retrieved 4 November 2011.
  2. ^ "Nye Facts". Retrieved 2009-07-02.  A PDF file from Nye's official website. This information can also be found in Flash format at the site under "Bill Info".
  3. ^ "Jacqueline Jenkins-Nye, 79, World War II code breaker - Baltimore Sun". 2000-04-03. Retrieved 2011-03-24. 
  4. ^ "Biography | Bill Nye the Science Guy". Retrieved 2011-03-24. 
  5. ^ "Transcript of Oral History of Jenkins, S.S. (Bud)". 2003-10-08. Retrieved 2011-03-24. 
  6. ^ a b Nye, Bill (2009-01-21). "My School Days -- The Crazy Luck". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  7. ^ Sidwell Authors lists Nye as a '73 graduate.
  8. ^ "Nye Bio". Retrieved 2009-07-02.  A PDF file from Nye's official website. This information can also be found in Flash format at the site under "Bill Info".
  9. ^ a b "Janet Reno and Bill Nye appointed CU Rhodes Class of '56 Professors". Cornell Chronicle. Cornell University. 2001-06-28. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  10. ^ Willamette University | Commencement 2011
  11. ^ Davis, Pamela (11 October 1999). "Bill Nye, the successful guy". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved 2008-01-26. 
  12. ^ "Bill Nye the Science Guy @ Toonarific". Retrieved 2008-11-30. 
  13. ^ Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary gives "jigawatt" as the preferred pronunciation, but lists "gigawatt" as an accepted usage also
  14. ^ Munroe, Randall. "Bill Nye". xkcd. Retrieved 2009-10-11. 
  15. ^ "Science Guy Bill Nye Killed In Massive Vinegar/Baking-Soda Explosion". The Onion. 2000-08-23. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  16. ^ "Crack Nearly Killed Me". 2006-04-28. Retrieved 2009-10-10. 
  17. ^ Ganz, Megan; Garden, Joe (2008-11-17). "Behind the Scenes at America's Most Outrageous Newspaper". Washington Post Magazine. Retrieved 2009-06-30.  A chat with Megan Ganz and Joe Garden of The Onion.
  18. ^ "The Numb3rs Guy". Time Magazine. December 4, 2005.,8816,1137661,00.html. Retrieved 2008-04-28. 
  19. ^ "Make Eye Exams Part of the Back to School Routine". YouTube. Retrieved 2011-03-24. 
  20. ^ "Bill Nye". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  21. ^ Woerner, Meredith (2008-08-15). "First Pics Of Jewel Staite's Hot Date On Atlantis". io9. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  22. ^ Transcripts from Larry King Live (CNN) featuring Nye speaking on global warming: "Hurricane Rita Threatens Texas/Louisiana Coast" (2005-09-22), "Panel Discusses Damage Caused By Hurricane Rita" (2005-09-26), "Could Global Warming Kill Us?" (2007-01-31).
  23. ^ Transcripts from Larry King Live (CNN) featuring Nye speaking on UFOs: "Roswell Truth Debated" (2008-07-04), "Debate Over Existence of UFOs" (2008-07-18).
  24. ^ "Repower America - Bill Nye, The Science Guy". YouTube. Retrieved 2011-03-24. 
  25. ^ "Video - Breaking News Videos from". 2010-07-16. Retrieved 2011-03-24. 
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^ Friend, T. (2004 January 5). The sun on Mars. In The talk of the town. The New Yorker, LXXIX, 27.
  30. ^ a b Rahner, Mark (2005-04-26). "Eye to eye with Bill Nye the Science Guy". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  31. ^ "Bill Nye Signs on as Planetary Society's New Executive Director" (Press release). The Planetary Society. 2010-06-07. Retrieved 2010-12-06. 
  32. ^ "Bill Nye Biography". The Planetary Society. Retrieved 2010-12-06. 
  33. ^ "Bill Nye's Climate Lab at Chabot Space & Science Center". Video. YouTube. Retrieved 21 April 2011. 
  34. ^
  35. ^ Holder, Justin (2002-02-19). "Bill Nye 'The Science Guy' to headline engineering open house". News Bureau. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  36. ^ US patent 5515203, William S. Nye, "Educational lens", issued 1996-05-07 
  37. ^ "Walk among the planets with a star: Bill Nye, the Science Guy, guides a tour of Ithaca's Sagan Planet Walk on March 7". Chronicle Online. Cornell University. 2006-03-01. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  38. ^ "'Science Guy' Likes Pluto Change", ABC News, 27 August 2006.
  39. ^ Kerley, David (2007-07-25). "Eco-Friendly Competition: Who Can Go Greener?". ABC News. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  40. ^ a b Lewine, Edward (April 20, 2008). "Greener Pastures". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-04-28. 
  41. ^ Doug (March 27, 2011). "Kay Hanley". Review Geek. Retrieved August 31, 2011. "Bill Nye, my beloved nemesis and neighbor, who agreed to film the shot 10 minutes after I gave him no choice in the matter. Not for nothing, but the money shot would have been when I marched across the street as Bill was gardening, shouting “Nye! You’re gonna be in our video! Get your bow tie and lab coat. I’m grabbing one of the Emmy statues. Meet us on the porch in 10!” And he did. Love that guy…" 
  42. ^ "CSI Fellows and Staff." The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Retrieved January 4, 2010.
  43. ^ Bill Nye interview [part 2 of 2 (Be Skeptical episode 3) IIG West. Retrieved July 26, 2011.
  44. ^ MSNBC. "Bill Nye, the Science Guy, gets hitched". Retrieved 2007-10-12 
  45. ^ "The Smoking Gun - War of the Roses". 
  46. ^ D.G. Martin of WCHL interviews Blair Tindall for "Who's Talking" podcast. [1] (list of podcasts). (January 7, 2008)

External links

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