Neil deGrasse Tyson hosted the latest version of the groundbreaking science series Cosmos, and now the popular scientist has won the 2015 Public Welfare Medal from the National Academy of Sciences.
Tyson was born in New York City and attended the Bronx High School of Science. He later went on to earn a bachelor's degree in physics from Harvard University and graduated from Columbia University with a doctorate in astrophysics. Tyson served as director of the Hayden Planetarium in Boston, where he first became known to members of the general public.
"At a time when science is often misunderstood or ignored, Neil deGrasse Tyson is truly its most visible and most recognizable advocate. By personably and skillfully explaining the significance and the thrills of scientific discoveries, Neil has captured the public's imagination like no other scientist alive today. We are pleased to present him our highest award," Ralph J. Cicerone, president of the National Academy of Sciences, said.
The National Academy of Sciences was founded in 1863 as the American Civil War raged. During the first World War, the federal government asked the group to advise the military on scientific matters. However, their 150 members were unable to keep up with the requests. In response to their shortage of member scientists, the group established the National Research Council in 1916.
The NAS Public Welfare Medal, awarded once a year, is given to the researcher the group determines has done the most to advance the public good with science. The first of these medals was awarded in 1914 to George W. Goethals and William C. Gorgas, for their work on the Panama Canal. Sanitary programs instituted by the pair greatly reduced incidences of malaria and yellow fever. Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop is a recipient of the award, as were molecular biologist Maxine Singer, and Cosmos author and original host Carl Sagan.
Tyson recently made his opinion known on a controversy sweeping through the Internet - the color of "that dress." Despite the number of people that see the dress as white and gold, the manufacturer only produces that design in black and blue. The reason some observers see it in other colors is due to brains "removing" some colors, as it would to keep objects from looking red during sunsets. Some people are referring to the picture as an optical illusion.
"If we were honest about shortcomings of human physiology then 'optical illusions' would instead be labeled "brain failures," deGrasse Tyson tweeted.
The Public Welfare Medal will be formerly presented to Tyson on April 26, 2015, at the 152nd annual meeting of the academy.
This is not the first major recognition Tyson has won. He was also named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine in 2007.