William Sanford Nye is better known to the world as Bill Nye the Science Guy. You hear his name and the theme song for the show probably starts going through your head. Although some millennials might remember Nye best for that classic TV show, his career and his life extend far beyond that. Here are 42 fact-checking facts about Bill Nye.
42. Call Me
Nye was the captain of Cornell University’s (first ever) ultimate frisbee team. The title wasn’t bestowed just because of his athletic prowess, he was just easiest to get a hold of: “I was captain because I had a phone…And an answering machine.”
41. Moving On Up
Nye currently serves as the CEO of the Planetary Society, an institution that is dedicated to space exploration. Nye’s former professor, Carl Sagan, founded the organization in 1980 and became CEO in the 2000s. Nye joined shortly after. As Nye explains it, “There was a dinner party, there was wine, or something, and now I’m the CEO…”
40. Ivy League
Nye began his career as a mechanical engineer for Boeing in Seattle, which he joined shortly after graduating from Cornell University. Nye had a brief stint as a comedy writer and performer for the local Seattle show Almost Live! before his involvement in Bill Nye the Science Guy. It was Nye’s time on Almost Live! that led to his iconic moniker, “Bill Nye the Science Guy.”
39. Everything Happens for a Reason
After leaving his position at Boeing, Bill Nye would periodically apply to be an astronaut at NASA. The efforts continued until he landed his spot on Bill Nye the Science Guy. If Nye succeeded with NASA, a generation would have been deprived of his show.
While at Cornell, Bill Nye was taught astronomy by none other than Carl Sagan. Nye understandably credits this class with deepening his interest in science.
37. Get That Checked Out
In 2010, Nye was lecturing in front of an audience at the University of Southern California when he fainted. After being out for about ten seconds, Nye got back up and asked the audience how long he’d been out. Apparently, a “similar thing” happened earlier that day. Nye finished his lecture.
Bill Nye the Science Guy likely wouldn’t exist without Nye’s appearances on Back to the Future: The Animated Series. Nye appeared as Dr. Emmett Brown’s assistant, giving the audience a breakdown of the science Brown discussed during the show. It was this segment’s popularity that led to Nye being offered his own show.
35. What’s the deal…
Before Bill Nye became the science guy, he was very interested in comedy. He was inspired was Steve Martin, alleging that he won a Steve Martin look-a-like contest. Nye also used to impersonate Martin at parties. Nye then began performing stand up comedy, but things didn’t always go well, with Nye later referring to his act as “mediocre.” He did, however, have one big moment where he was the opening act for one of the most famous comedians of all time, Jerry Seinfeld. Nye’s comedy career was instrumental in helping him break into television.
34. Moving on Up
The four-word pitch for Bill Nye the Science Guy was “Mr. Wizard meets Pee-wee’s Playhouse.” The show was originally restricted to local Seattle programming with King-TV. As the show’s audience grew, it was eventually picked up by PBS, where it reached tens of millions of people.
33. Total Recall
While Nye doesn’t mind the idea of terraforming Mars in theory, he isn’t a believer in the hard science. Mars is a great research station, but as Nye argues, “Nobody goes to Antarctica to raise a family.” As he says, if we can’t take care of Earth, why do we think we can take care of another planet?
32. Fashion and Science
Nye has collaborated with Nick Graham, the founder of Joe Boxer, for several years. Graham makes a new bowtie for Nye each year, which is also sold to the public, with some of the proceeds going to the Planetary Society. The ties all have science or space-themed designs, such as planets or astronauts.
31. Step Aside Hollywood
Bill Nye the Science Guy won a total of 19 Emmys over its five-year, 100-episode run. Nye himself won seven Emmys for producing, performing and writing.
Tying in with his environmental activism, Nye has owned several electrical cars. He was one of a few hundred people to get the GM EV1 back in the 1990s. Nye has also owned a Ford Focus Electric, a Nissan Leaf and a Volkswagen e-Golf. One of Nye’s more recent purchases is Chevrolet Bolt EV, which Nye says he “couldn’t be happier with.”
Due to a combination of shows such as the recent Bill Nye Saves the World, books, speaking appearances etc., Nye is worth an estimated $6.5 million as of December 2018.
28. Guest Star
Nye appeared alongside Neil Degrasse Tyson in an episode of Stargate Atlantis. The two played more pompous versions of themselves, bullying Dr. Rodney McKay at a gala.
27. Brain Food
If you want to eat like a genius, fry up one slice of bacon with some chard. Nye seeks out organically raised bacon and only uses homegrown chard, but he stands by the meal as an essential comfort food.
26. Get Closer
Nye appeared on season 17 of Dancing With the Stars, but his connection to dancing goes way back. Nye got into swing dancing through his parents and is still active in it. Nye likes the exercise and the social environment, but also adds, “Women you do not know, you don’t even know their first name, they want you to hold them…It’s fantastic.”
Nye respects the scientific merit of cannabis research, especially in terms of its medicinal value. However, Nye is not a smoker himself. He doesn’t like the smell and generally doesn’t like pot because he has memories of his ultimate Frisbee teammates frequently showing up to games high back in college.
24. Drop the Beat
Tyler the Creator provides the theme song for Bill Nye Saves the World. Nye wasn’t that familiar with Tyler prior to his recording the song. To Nye, Tyler was just the guy “who ate the cockroach,” which is a reference to the video for Tyler’s song “Yonkers.” However, Nye embraced the new theme song and is happy to hear viewers embrace it too.
23. Line Them Up
By Nye’s count, he has about 500 bow ties, and eight tie racks to fit them all. Nye also makes sure to wear a different one for every episode of Bill Nye Saves the World. However, his collection keeps on growing, since every university he goes to gives him a university bow tie.
22. Rumors of My Demise…
Nye has been subjected to two death hoaxes. The first came in 2012 when satirical news site, The Onion, reported he died while trying to fill a hot air balloon by mixing baking soda and vinegar. Some people forgot The Onion was satire and ran with it. The next hoax came in early December 2018, when a Facebook page dedicated to Nye, “Monsters and Critics,” reported his death. Nye’s frequent tweeting was enough for a lot of fans to realize he was still alive.
Nye and his partner Tyne Stecklein were the second duo eliminated from season 17 of Dancing With the Stars. Nye injured his leg during their first performance, and they came up with a robotic dance number for their second performance. Relying on hand movements, Nye was able to perform while wearing a leg immobilizer.
20. Good Company
Nye attended Sidwell Friends School for middle and high school. The school is a Quaker institution that also taught numerous politicians’ children, such as Chelsea Clinton and both of Barack Obama’s daughters. Nye said the school was a nice change of pace from a public school where bullying was much more rampant.
19. En Pointe
Ballet dancers can thank Nye for inventing a newer version of ballet shoes. Nye’s shoes include a toe box which encloses and protects the dancer’s toes. The shoes also give the sole more support, leading to more durability and less pain for the dancers using them.
18. Not So Secret Admirer
Aside from being influenced by Steve Martin’s style, Nye has admitted to sending Martin a letter back in the day. “Dear Steve, I’m Bill Nye. I owe my career to you. I’d like to buy you lunch sometime…” Nye never heard back from the comedy legend.
17. Fight Night
Battlebots featured (pretty awesome) battles between remote-controlled robots. Nye served as the show’s technical expert from 2000 to 2002, so you can feel smart for enjoying such an educational program now.
16. Walk the Walk
Nye and his former neighbor, actor and environmental activist Ed Begley Jr., actually had a green-off during their time as neighbors. Nye and Begley tried to have the greenest house, competing in terms of features like solar panels and power usage. Nye knows he won in 2008, but isn’t sure who was on top by the time Begley moved in 2015.
Nye says the main reason he joined Dancing With the Stars was the opportunity to get people talking about science. The show’s audience appealed to him as a way to get science on the minds of millions of people. Nye also drew inspiration from seeing Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon, appear on the show three years prior.
14. Professor Nye
If you’re a Cornell student, you might get a lecture from Bill Nye. He occasionally does guest lectures for introductory-level astronomy and human ecology classes.
Nye is a fan of America’s pastime. Due to his longtime residence in Seattle, he was initially a Mariners fan, but his DC roots have now taken over and made him a Nationals fan.
Nye’s inspiration, Carl Sagan, liked to smoke up sometimes. Nye never smoked with Sagan but does know that Sagan’s widow, Ann Druyan, partakes from time to time as well. Nye believes that genetics might have an impact on how people react to marijuana, e.g. getting high or not, and believes “we should study this.”
11. Mr. Worldwide
While at Boeing, Nye invented the hydraulic pressure resonance suppressor tube. The tube is used in 747s and basically minimizes the effect that vibrations have on the plane.
10. Who Needs the Gym?
A writer from Popular Science once followed Nye around for a few days for an article entitled, “Bill Nye Fights Back.” According to the writer Nye’s morning workout consists of 250 sit-ups and 150 pushups.
9. Live Long and Prosper
Nye is good friends with actor Bob Picardo, who is best known as The Doctor on Star Trek: Voyager. The two have conducted interviews with one another, trying to bridge the gap between science and science fiction.
8. A Whole New World
Until 2017, Nye was a part of Disney’s “Ellen’s Energy Adventure,” along with Ellen Degeneres, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Alex Trebek. The attraction is a traveling-theatre science lesson, to which Nye contributed his voice and image as he discussed topics such as solar power. The attraction was officially closed in 2017, but Nye had a good 20-year run.
7. This Song Is So Oh No No.
For his recent Netflix show, Bill Nye filmed a musical segment called “My Sex Junk.” He did not expect that the song would make him a laughing stock, and the target of alt-right death threats simply because of the song’s controversial nature. The song dealt with the theme of gender identity, but it wasn’t the controversy that thrust it into the limelight: the song featured a few of the most cringe-worthy lyrics ever written that made it the butt of millions of internet memes. Such gems include “Cause my sex junk, is so, oh, oh, oh, much more than, either-or, or or” and “Damn skippy, home slice, sing it with me all night, sex how you want, it’s your right.”
6. Full Circle
Numb3rs follows an FBI team who use mathematics to solve crimes. The show’s creators cite Nye as a major influence on the show, due to a lecture he gave about exciting children with math. Nye isn’t sure if he can really take any credit for the show, but he has guest-starred in the show as an engineering professor, named Bill.
5. What’s up Doc?
You may have heard about the documentary, Bill Nye: Science Guy. It was marketed as a film that would focus on Nye’s campaign for climate change awareness, while also examining whether fame has changed Nye. However, the man himself has a different recollection of it. He signed a contract and had a crew follow him around for two years, but the footage was then subjected to heavy editing—especially after the 2016 US election. According to Nye, the editing exaggerated his conflict with certain climate change deniers, such as Marc Morano and Ken Ham.
4. Imitation Game
Nye’s mother, Jacqueline Jenkins-Nye, served as a codebreaker during World War II. After graduating from Goucher College, where she studied math and psychology, Jenkins-Nye was recruited to code breaking efforts, even working in the same room as the people who cracked the infamous Enigma machine. Jenkins-Nye served as a “Goucher girl” until the end of World War II, and later returned to school to earn master’s and doctoral degrees in education. She died of cancer in 2000.
3. Yes Ma’am
Aside from helping to beat the Nazis, Bill Nye’s mom also taught him how to sew. It seems like she became a drill sergeant during her time with the Navy: “I can still hear her chanting in my ear: ‘Sit up straight! Shoulders back! Do it til you get it right!’” Nye still owns a sewing machine.
2. Like Father, Like Son
Nye’s father was a World War II veteran who survived Japanese prisoner-of-war camps. While in captivity, Edwin Darby Nye made a sundial in order to tell time. His son Bill would later create a sundial that would assist the Mars Rover with its missions. The MarsDial had different-colored panels, helping to calibrate color on the rovers’ photos, and keep time.
1. Fatal Attraction
Nye had a brief and tumultuous relationship with musician Blair Tindall. They were engaged for five months and married on February 3, 2006. The license was declared invalid seven weeks later and the two separated. In 2007, Tindall broke into Nye’s home, stole his laptop (which she used to send defamatory emails while impersonating Nye), and damaged his garden with herbicide, resulting in Nye gaining a protective order against her.
Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31