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Neil deGrasse Tyson (cosmos expert for Daily Show, Jimmy Fallon) wins Dunlap Prize

Inaugural award recognizes author who targets "people who never thought they would, or could, like science"

Neil deGrasse Tyson is the inaugural winner of the Dunlap Prize (Top photo by Cutty McGill, Penworld Magazine

The Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics at the University of Toronto is launching an international award named the Dunlap Prize.

And the inaugural recipient is renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.

“Our vision for the award,” said the Dunlap Institute’s interim director, Peter Martin, “is to recognize an individual whose remarkable achievements resonate with our goals for excellence in astronomy and astrophysics.”

The Dunlap Institute was established in 2008 at the U of T to be a global leader in sharing scientific discovery with the public, training the next generation of astronomers, and developing innovative astronomical instrumentation to enable breakthroughs in observational research.

“As a reflection of the Dunlap Institute’s commitment to public outreach and education,” said Martin, “the first Dunlap Prize is being awarded to astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.”

Tyson is an exceptional communicator, a prolific author and writer, was the host of PBS’s NOVA ScienceNOW, and currently hosts the popular StarTalk Radio podcast.

"Now also a podcast, StarTalk Radio combines celebrity guests with informative yet playful banter," according to Tyson's web site. "The target audience is all those people who never thought they would, or could, like science."

Awarded 18 honorary doctorates, Tyson also received the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal, the highest award given by NASA to a non-government citizen. The International Astronomical Union recognized his contributions to the public appreciation of the cosmos with the naming of asteroid “13123 Tyson” and he was even voted “Sexiest Astrophysicist Alive” by People Magazine in 2000.

He is the presenter of COSMOS: A Spacetime Odyssey, the much-awaited follow-up to Carl Sagan’s landmark television series to be broadcast in 2014.

“Because of his tireless and highly successful efforts to communicate astronomy to the public, Dr. Tyson was a clear choice to be the first Dunlap Prize winner," said Michael Reid, the Dunlap’s director of Public Outreach.

Tyson received his PhD in astrophysics from Columbia University and, following postdoctoral work at Princeton, became founding Chair of the Department of Astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. There, he was project scientist for the reconstruction of the Hayden Planetarium, where he is now Astrophysicist and Frederick P. Rose Director.

The prize ceremony will take place on the afternoon of Friday, March 21st, 2014, at the University of Toronto with invited guests in attendance.

The ceremony will be followed by the Dunlap Prize Lecture, a free public lecture by Tyson in the U of T’s Convocation Hall on Friday evening.

Registration to attend the lecture will be available in late winter. To subscribe for updates and announcements, the public is invited to visit www.dunlap.utoronto.ca/public-outreach/upcoming-events

Chris Sasaki is a writer with The Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics.

October 21, 2013