Known for his quirky bowtie and long lab coat, Bill Nye is one of America's most famous science educators. Recognized by millions as "Bill Nye the Science Guy" from his 1990s PBS TV series, Nye began his career as a mechanical engineer for Boeing Corporation in Seattle, where he invented a hydraulic resonance suppressor tube used on 747 airplanes. At night he performed as a stand-up comedian in clubs. Eventually he merged these two worlds, helping to create the show that brought him fame.
Following his success on TV, Nye continued to advocate for science. In 2010 he was elected CEO of the Planetary Society, the world's largest non-profit space interest group with members in 130 countries. He is also an inventor (he owns three patents) and has published two best-selling books on science. As part of a lifelong project to foster scientific literacy, Nye travels the world lecturing on the importance of education, while inspiring generations of young people to change the world.
His early enthusiasm for science led him to Ithaca, New York in 1973 so that he could enroll in Cornell University. While majoring in engineering, Nye was a student of the legendary scientist and science educator Carl Sagan. Nye recalls being in Sagan's astronomy class as one of the most inspirational experiences in his life. In addition to his science curriculum at college, Nye also took classes in subjects from psychology to German, wanting to learn as broadly as possible. His incredible workload eventually paid off and in 1977 Nye received his Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Cornell.
Nye has returned to his alma mater regularly since his graduation, including his 10-year college reunion in 1987, when he went to great lengths to meet with Carl Sagan who was still at Cornell. From 2001 to 2006, Nye served as the Frank H. T. Rhodes Class of '56 University Professor at Cornell University. Then in 2011 he designed and funded the clock at the top of Rhodes Hall, a portion of which glows for several minutes each day when the sun reaches its highest point in the sky at solar noon.
More recently, Nye was back on campus in 2019 to deliver the keynote speech at Cornell University’s convocation, where he cracked jokes about science, encouraged improving the lives of women around the world, and voiced his concerns about climate change. Nye concluded his speech by imploring the new graduates to reflect on how valuable their education at Cornell is. "Cornell is just an extraordinary institution that teaches you how to think and how to interact with the world,” the proud alum noted.