Neil deGrasse Tyson, the keynoter for the 2011 AAM Annual Meeting in Houston, is many things: renowned astrophysicist, museum leader, author, television star and, well, evangelist.
Tyson is an evangelist for science, proselytizing the benefits of scientific understanding and the omnipresence of science in our lives. He preaches his gospel of science literacy around the country, across the globe and on the airwaves, through his role as host of the award-winning PBS series NOVA scienceNOW. Tyson is our era’s Carl Sagan, an acclaimed scientist with an engaging personality and the rare ability to make the most complex of scientific subjects easily understandable to all, thereby raising America’s scientific knowledge exponentially.
For Tyson, that evangelical role dominates his professional life these days. He is the director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, yet he estimates he spends only about 10% of his time on actually doing science. The other 90% is spent on spreading the word about science and the study thereof. Tyson explains this by quoting Sagan: “When you’re in love, you want to tell the world.”
Moreover, Tyson is as much a role model for scientific pursuits as any astronaut. An African American born and raised in New York City, Tyson’s biography is truly an American success story, and his public role undoubtedly serves to inspire thousands of minority children to pursue their interest in science. Thus, the true impact of Dr. Tyson may be years in the making, when the researchers in U.S. scientific laboratories will mirror the diversity of the populations they serve.
As a youth, Tyson was inspired by the vastness of the cosmos, as well as the universe of museums he visited in New York. His address will serve to inspire those working in all types of museums on the value of their labors, as well as Houston’s pivotal role in creating The Museum of Tomorrow.
Tyson will address the general session at the Houston meeting on Wednesday, May 25 at 10:30 am at the George R. Brown Convention Center.
–Dewey Blanton, American Association of Museums