Neil deGrasse Tyson on Stem Cells

Astrophysicist and Science Educator

Neil deGrasse Tyson was born and raised in New York City where he was educated in the public schools clear through his graduation from the Bronx High School of Science. Tyson went on to earn his BA in Physics from Harvard and his PhD in Astrophysics from Columbia.  He is the first occupant of the Frederick P. Rose Directorship of the Hayden Planetarium. His professional research interests are broad, but include star formation, exploding stars, dwarf galaxies, and the structure of our Milky Way. Tyson obtains his data from the Hubble Space Telescope, as well as from telescopes in California, New Mexico, Arizona, and in the Andes Mountains of Chile.Tyson is the recipient of nine honorary doctorates and the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal. His contributions to the public appreciation of the cosmos have been recognized by the International Astronomical Union in their official naming of asteroid "13123 Tyson".

  • Transcript


Question: Is stem cell research at the forefront of medical innovation?

DeGrasse Tyson:    This… All this talk about investing in medical breakthroughs, predominantly, through the National Institute of Health, that‘s the primary sort of government agency for medical research.  What I caution is… Fine, we all want to live healthy.  That’s not even [here] to debate.  But keep in mind that if you take a tour through a hospital and look at every machine with on and off switch that is brought into the service of diagnosing the human condition, that machine is based on principles of physics discovered by a physicist in a machine designed by an engineer.  Nowhere in that equation was there a medical doctor or a medical researcher.  And so, you can’t just fund one branch of scientific inquiry, you have to fund them all.  Because these advances… For example, the MRI came from principles of physics discovered by a physicist who had no interest in medicine.  That wasn’t his point.  That wasn’t what drove him.  Yet, it has this marvelous application that we could diagnose, release probe inside your body without cutting you open first.  So the cross pollination of disciplines is fundamental to truly revolutionary advances in our culture.  And so, you can’t fund any one thing without the other, [unless] you believe you were right on top of the solution when, in fact, you’re not.