GRAND Magazine - January/February 2019 - 19

сover story

Early life of Neil deGrasse Tyson

Tyson with his dad
Cyril deGrasse Tyson

Tyson in graduate school in Texas,
sometime in the 1980s.

"Behind every successful man, there's a great woman."
In the case of Neil deGrasse Tyson, that great woman would be
his mother, Sunchita "Toni" Tyson.
In this video, Toni Tyson discusses the unique challenges of raising a
future astrophysicist in the Bronx.
Ms. Tyson encouraged her son's scientific aptitude and interests, even when some teachers and professors had low expectations for Neil due to a racist bias.

Tyson explaining the Tooth Fairy
to kids

Tyson grew up in and around the Bronx in New York City. His
mother was a gerontologist, and his dad was a sociologist. His
19 GRAND

JANUARY FEBRUARY 2019

interest in science, and specifically astrophysics, goes back to his
teen years. While attending the Bronx High School of Science
(1972-1976), he went on a school trip to the Hayden Planetarium.
This inspired him to take astronomy classes there. But his interests
didn't stop there; he was also captain of the wrestling team and
editor of the school's "Physical Science" journal. He started giving
lectures to share his knowledge with others when he was just 15!
If you think that's impressive, you're not alone. None other
than famed astronomer Carl Sagan at Cornell University - at the
time considered to be the quintessential guide to the universe
- heard about Tyson and invited him to visit. He then offered
Tyson admission to Cornell, but Tyson chose Harvard where he
majored in physics. He followed that up by earning a Master of
Philosophy in astrophysics at Columbia University in 1989 and

Tyson's mother explains how to raise a brilliant child.

his doctorate in astrophysics two years later. He worked as a
research affiliate at Princeton University and then director of the
planetarium there before taking the position he still holds. Talk
about your Ivy League pedigree!
Continued on next page


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GRAND Magazine - January/February 2019

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