1980s Photo Captures Neil deGrasse Tyson Looking Hip in Grad School (Plus More on His “Failed Experiment” at UT-Austin)

Neil deGrasse Tyson in graduate school at Texas - 1980s - Imgur

Last year, we revis­it­ed the high school days of Neil deGrasse Tyson. Grow­ing up in New York City dur­ing the 1970s, Tyson attend­ed Bronx Sci­ence (class of ’76), ran an impres­sive 4:25 mile, cap­tained the school’s wrestling team, and, he fond­ly recallswore bas­ket­ball sneak­ers belong­ing to the Knick’s Walt “Clyde” Fra­zier. Tyson was, of course, also a pre­co­cious stu­dent. Famous­ly, Carl Sagan recruit­ed Tyson to study with him at Cor­nell. But Tyson polite­ly declined and went to Har­vard for his under­grad­u­ate stud­ies. Then, he head­ed off to Texas, to start his PhD at UT-Austin. That’s where the pho­to, tak­en cir­ca 1980, cap­tures him above — hang­ing out with friends, and look­ing hip­per than your aver­age astro­physics stu­dent.

This pho­to (now mak­ing the rounds on Red­dit) orig­i­nal­ly appeared in a 2012 arti­cle pub­lished in the Alcaldethe alum­ni mag­a­zine of The Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas. To the mag­a­zine’s cred­it, the arti­cle takes an unvar­nished look at Tyson’s “failed exper­i­ment” in Texas. The piece starts with the lede “Neil deGrasse Tyson, MA ’83, is the pub­lic face of sci­ence. But he says his suc­cess has noth­ing to do with UT.” And, from there, it recounts how pro­fes­sors and uni­ver­si­ty police imme­di­ate­ly stereo­typed him.

The first com­ment direct­ed to me in the first minute of the first day by a fac­ul­ty mem­ber I had just met was, ‘You must join the depart­ment bas­ket­ball team!


I was stopped and ques­tioned sev­en times by Uni­ver­si­ty police on my way into the physics build­ing. Sev­en times. Zero times was I stopped going into the gym—and I went to the gym a lot. That says all you need to know about how wel­come I felt at Texas.

But the real prob­lem was­n’t race. Accord­ing to Tyson, “there was sim­ply no room for me to be the full per­son that I was.” “An obses­sive focus on one thing at a time; a strong con­nec­tion to pop cul­ture, from the moon­walk to the Rubik’s cube; and a refusal to put research first: these traits con­tributed to Tyson’s fail­ure at UT,” con­cludes the Alcalde. They also allowed him to flour­ish lat­er in life.

After his “advi­sors dis­solved his dis­ser­ta­tion committee—essentially flunk­ing him,” Tyson trans­ferred to Colum­bia, earned his PhD in 1988, and became the great­est pop­u­lar­iz­er of sci­ence since Carl Sagan. We like sto­ries with hap­py end­ings.

Read more about Tyson’s expe­ri­ence in Texas at the Alcalde.

via Boing Boing

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Neil deGrasse Tyson, High School Wrestling Team Cap­tain, Invent­ed a Physics-Based Wrestling Move

Carl Sagan Writes a Let­ter to 17-Year-Old Neil deGrasse Tyson (1975)

Neil deGrasse Tyson Lists 8 (Free) Books Every Intel­li­gent Per­son Should Read

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