Skip to main content
Skip to navigation

March 20, 2014 Volume 35, No. 24

The science guy talks of the joy and importance of science to sold-out crowd

Alternate text

Bill Nye, Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin and Truman the Tiger check their ties in a mirror March 15 in the Residence on Francis Quadrangle. Photo by Shane Epping.

Bill Nye’s career has taken him from engineer to actor to science popularizer

A line of children, many wearing Boy Scout uniforms, stood outside of Jesse Auditorium March 15 with tickets in hand. They were still in line as lecture time neared. “We don’t want to miss Bill!” they chanted.

The children were referring to Bill Nye, “the science guy,” who was about to speak on the joy and importance of science. 

Nye became well-known in the 1990s as a popularizer of science for children and teenagers, something that would have been hard to predict after his graduation in 1977 from Cornell University with a degree in mechanical engineering. He worked as an engineer at Boeing for years.

Then in 1986 while still a Boeing engineer, he became a writer and actor on a sketch comedy television show in Seattle. He started his famous Bill Nye the Science Guy show on a local radio station in Seattle in 1986. The show went to television on PBS and the Disney Channel from 1993 to 1998. 

During his lecture, part of the MU “Decoding Science” symposium, Nye talked about serious topics, such as climate change and evolution, but didn’t lose his humor. He used different tones of voice and theatrical gestures. He often asked direct questions to the younger crowd to engage them.

Nye showed a slide of a car he saw in Columbia that had “Bill Nye The Science Lie” written on the back window. The crowd burst into laughter. Nye showed the image to illustrate his concern about the future of science education for younger generations. He doesn’t want the children in that car to reject science, he said.

During questions, he was asked how it feels to be a “science rock star.” He said he doesn’t understand his popularity, but he wants to use it to help increase public interest in science. “I just try to get the P,B and J, the passion, beauty and joy [of science] across to people,” Nye said.

— JeongAn Choi