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Neil deGrasse Tyson to receive the National Academy of Sciences’ most prestigious honor

Scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson in his office at the Hayden Planetarium in New York, N.Y., on Feb. 4, 2015. Tyson is director of the Hayden Planetarium. (Jesse Dittmar for The Washington Post)

The National Academy of Sciences has announced that Neil deGrasse Tyson, most widely known for hosting the recent reboot of Carl Sagan's popular science show "Cosmos," will receive their most prestigious award at a ceremony this April.

The Public Welfare Medal was first presented in 1914 (when it went to two men integral to the Panama Canal building project) and is intended to recognize those who work to promote science for the benefit of humanity.

Tyson will be the first person to receive the award for his efforts in science communication to the general public since Sagan himself won in 1994. The two men are connected by more than their shared awards and TV styles: Back when Tyson was a high school student in the Bronx considering colleges, Sagan wrote him a heartfelt invitation to visit his lab at Cornell -- one that Tyson accepted. He ended up at Harvard instead of learning at the feet of the master, but I guess he turned out okay.

"Through just about every form of media available, Neil deGrasse Tyson has made millions of people around the world excited about science," Susan Wessler, home secretary for the National Academy of Sciences and chair of the selection committee for the award, said in a statement. "Ultimately, the success of science depends on the public's understanding of its importance and value. Neil masterfully conveys why science matters -- not just to a few, but to all of us."

Tyson has been a vocal advocate for science literacy since his appointment as director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York in 1995. His "Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey" reboot was an Emmy-nominated critical success, and was shown in 181 countries in 45 languages. Tackling everything from the dawn of time to the theory of evolution, Tyson managed to educate and excite viewers of all ages across the globe. He's now set to have the first ever late-night science program: StarTalk, which will air on National Geographic starting in April, will be a studio-filmed adaptation of his popular live events and podcasts of the same name.

And Tyson's outreach doesn't stop when the TV is off: His Twitter account has everything from quippy thoughts about science to awestruck proclamations about the beauty of the universe, to hard and fast takedowns of anti-science views in the news.

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