When did you first realize you loved science? If you’re a science enthusiast, it’s likely that one of these real scientists on TV inspired you in some way. Check out the list to see if your favorite makes an appearance!
Carl Sagan is the ultimate pop-culture scientist. He’s the scientist who inspires other scientists. His show, Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, is the most widely watched PBS show in history. Cosmos covered topics like space, evolution, astronomy, the Big Bang, and more. The show used innovative special effects to visualize Sagan’s descriptions, a feature that especially set Cosmos apart from other shows at the time. His fictional book about communication with extraterrestrials, Contact, was made into a movie starring Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey in 1997. He was a visible media figure for most of his professional life, creating a whole new outlook for scientists appearing on TV. Carl Sagan’s love for science lives on, inspiring students to seek answers.
Sagan personally influenced Neil deGrasse Tyson, with whom he spent an afternoon discussing physics when Tyson was just 17. Tyson recently took up the mantle on Cosmos, starring in new productions of the show.
Everybody knows the theme song… “Bill! Bill! Bill! Bill! Bill Nye the science guy!” Sometimes it seems like Bill Nye has single-handedly made science cool. Days when we watched Bill Nye episodes in science class were the best not only because we didn’t have to do any work. Nye’s show was exciting, funny, and best of all, informative. Nye now appears semi-regularly on TV shows. In recent years, he has made appearances on the Big Bang Theory, Dancing With The Stars, and Inside Amy Schumer. He’s a huge advocate for science and has used his mechanical engineering skills to contribute to projects like the Mars Exploration Rover missions. Nye’s popularity endures – on any given day you’re likely to see Bill Nye popping up somewhere on your TV or news feed from time to time.
Neil deGrasse Tyson
Neil deGrasse Tyson is one of the most famous astrophysicists alive. Tyson has amassed a huge internet following (he has nearly 8 million followers on Twitter). He runs a podcast called StarTalk, hosts the tv show Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, and has written several books, including Death By Black Hole and Astrophysics for People In A Hurry. Tyson’s love for science is apparent — he engages young people in fun, and exciting ways. Tyson is so well-known he has even appeared as a character in the Simpsons (playing himself). Tyson is dedicated to spreading love for science in any way he can. He once said, “As an educator, it’s my duty to empower you to think. So that you can go forth and think accurate thoughts about how the world is put together.”
Stephen Hawking is a physicist and cosmologist whose life was recently made into a movie: The Theory of Everything. Hawking is known for his research on black holes, proving that they emit radiation — often called Hawking radiation. He supports a many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics (ever heard of the multiverse?) and has questioned the future of humanity on more than one occasion. Hawking’s book, A Brief History of Time, was a record-breaking bestseller.
While he is perhaps the most accomplished scientist appearing on this list, Hawking is a pop-culture figure as well. He has appeared on John Oliver’ and Conan O’Brien’s late-night shows, Star Trek, and, like Bill Nye, The Big Bang Theory. Hawking is an instantly recognizable scientific figure who changed not just our perspective of scientists in culture, but of the world around us as well.
Do you have a signature “nature documentary” voice? It’s likely you’re imitating David Attenborough, an English naturalist whose voice graces numerous nature documentaries on the BBC. His signature voice and style are well-known to fans of nature documentaries. His work has always set the standard for informative, appealing programs. Attenborough has worked on projects from Life on Earth and Civilisation to The Life of Mammals and Saving Planet Earth, all the while using the latest technological developments to produce groundbreaking videos of the natural world. He is best known for producing the Life series, but his work extends beyond television. He is an advocate for the environment, often exploring humans’ impact on the natural world. Attenborough strives to impart the importance of preserving the planet through his natural history shows, which demonstrate changes to the planet over time.