Winning Essay by Dante A. from Georgia attending Georgia Institute of Technology

In life, I’d like to believe that the outcome of one's life is not determined by factors out of his or her control. Unfortunately, this is not the world we live in, however this is what the world is shifting towards. Proof of this shift comes in the form of Neil deGrasse Tyson. He is a African American Astrophysicist who does not let his race define him or change how he is viewed as an intellectual. His intellect and insight is what made him successful. As a person who loves physics, knowing that my success in science is not bound by race is inspiring.

Tyson was born on October 5, 1958 in New York. When he was nine years old, he visited the Hayden Planetarium and there his love for stars and science was born. He began taking classes at the planetarium and even bought his own telescope to pursue knowledge. His efforts outside of the classroom show that what drove him was not a desire for approval or the instructions of others. He had a compulsion to learn about and explore the cosmos. After graduating from the Bronx High School of Science, he earned a Bachelor's degree in Physics from Harvard University and a PHD in Astrophysics from Columbia. His success as a child was only the start of his overall legacy.

After completing his education, Neil deGrasse Tyson began to work at the same planetarium that sparked his love for space and science. Under his leadership, the Hayden Planetarium experience massive renovations and advancements making the Hayden planetarium on of the most advanced and detailed planetariums in the world. Tyson also was a key reasons for on of the biggest controversies in the history of Astronomy. He classified Pluto as a Dwarf planet instead of a Planet and thus removed it from the solar system display at the planetarium. His success as a planetarium director led to his bestselling books and primetime interviews, and even a television show called Cosmos.

What inspires me most about Tyson’s work and legacy is not his discoveries or his tv show, but instead that he stands out from the rest of African American scientist from history. Neil deGrasse Tyson is a household name outside of just African American households. His defining quality is not the fact that he broke the mold or defied all the odds, but the fact that he was once just a kid who loved stars and did all he could to learn more. His success is a story that everyone can relate to. The fact that Neil deGrasse Tyson is known more as a scientist than as an African American scientist shows that one's work and legacy is not determined by factors not in their control, but on the quality of the work they do, and that I find inspiring.


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