William Sanford Nye rose to fame during the airing of his popular PBS show “Bill Nye, the Science Guy.” Since then, he’s produced Netflix specials, toured the world as a public speaker, and appeared in an endless variety of science education pieces for various media outlets.
An Extraordinary Background
Yet despite his eventual rise to stardom, Nye was first a mechanical engineer at Boeing Corporation in Seattle, Washington, after graduating from Cornell University. During his time at Boeing, he invented the hydraulic resonance suppressor tube for use in Boeing’s 747s. Nye also applied many times for NASA’s astronaut training program, was a volunteer science explainer for Pacific Science Center, and performed nighttime comedy — with Steve Martin as his specialty impression.
While his comedy career rose to new heights, Nye remained committed to science and engineering education, acting as the CEO of the Planetary Society and developing sundials for Mars Exploration Rover missions. He’s continued to advocate for action to slow climate change and is a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, which promotes critical inquiry and scientific exploration.
Bill Nye: A Mechanical Engineer, an Advocate, and an Educator
Despite his mechanical engineering degree, Nye has been critiqued for speaking as an expert on science — particularly for his climate advocacy. “I’m a mechanical engineer, it’s physics, for four years it’s physics, I took six semesters of calculus, is that enough?” he said on a 2017 episode of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”
Agree or disagree with Bill Nye, science enthusiast or not, he’s remained involved in scientific public policy issues and has made an undeniable contribution to science fields. Young scientists still approach him and credit his work as the inspiration for their own career paths.
Nye remains a great example of someone using their passion and degree to spawn an unlikely career. While he began his career as an engineer, it morphed into something greater, including lifelong advocacy for the STEM field where he got his start.
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