Bill Nye is one of those rare breeds of brainiacs that draws the love and admiration from both the worlds of science and entertainment. That club has a relatively short list of members. You got folks like Carl Sagan and Neil DeGrasse Tyson, but for the most part, the scientific community and show business don’t have much overlap.
Bill, however, has become a full-fledged celebrity. He’s got charm and charisma and it doesn’t hurt that a whole generation of folks grew up watching his hit PBS show “Bill Nye the Science Guy”. A lot of millennials and Gen Xers probably have fond memories of tube televisions being wheeled into their grade school science classes and hearing the catchy opening theme song.
Arguably, Bill helped millions of kids to grow up with a love of science and with increased curiosity for the natural world around them.
You’d think that a guy with so much book smarts and with a propensity for putting things to the test via the scientific method would have the ability to figure out something as innocuous as marriage right? But if you ask his crazy ex-wife Blair Tindall, romance isn’t exactly his forte – and neither is it hers.
In fact, their union exploded with a dramatic fireball much like a white dwarf going supernova, but if you want to know all the nitty-gritty details, you’re going to have to stick around for a bit, because first, we are going to take a closer look at Bill’s surprising personal life. Most people are familiar with his on-screen persona, but few know the real man behind the lab coat.
For example, did you know that Bill tried his hardest to become an astronaut? Stay tuned to find out why NASA turned him away.
He Comes From A Science Family
You thought he just played a scientist on TV, Right?
Well, thing again. Bill is the real deal.
Not only does he have a pretty impressive background in science and an Ivy league alma mater, but he comes from a very scientific family.
His mother, Jacqueline Jenkins-Nye, was a codebreaker for the U.S. Navy during world war II. She helped intercept and crack Nazi ciphers using Enigma machines like the one Alan Turing used.
Bill himself graduated from Cornell with a degree in mechanical engineering. To top it off, he studied under Carl Sagan himself.
After getting his degree, he working as an engineer with the Seatle-based airplane manufacturer as an engineer. It was while working there that he helped develop the hydraulic pressure resonance suppressor which was the key ingredient that made the 747 such a powerful and fast aircraft. That technology is still used in airplanes to this day.
He Always Wanted To Be A Comedian
Crazy enough, Bill once entered into a Steve Martin look-alike competition back in 1978 and somehow managed to win. We don’t see the resemblance, to be honest, but maybe he succeeded by channeling Steve’s vibe.
It was around this time – while he was still working at Boeing – that he started doing stand-up comedy in Seattle-area night clubs.
He started submitting his jokes to Almost Live – a Seattle sketch comedy show. Ross Shafer, the host of the show was impressed with his material and decided to bring Nye on to do humorous scientific demos on the show. That was the moment that Bill Nye The Science Guy was conceived – although it would be years before the titularly titled show would be birthed.
While on Almost Live, he had another recurring role on the show as Speedwalker – a fast walking superhero that probably had the Flash calling his lawyer.
Bill Nye The Frisbee Guy
Bill is not just a scientist and a comedian, but he’s also a bit of an athlete. When he attended Cornell, he joined the schools Ultimate Frisbee Team, The Cornell Buds.
After he relocated to Seattle, he helped establish the first men’s Ultimate team in the region. He was the captain of the team as well – which named themselves the Olympic Windjammers. Although, the only reason why Nye says he was captain was the fact that he had a house phone, answering machine and was skilled at using a pen and paper. – Simply put, he was reliable.
During his time as an athlete, he sustained several injuries including dislocating his shoulder and breaking his nose – but nothing bad enough to stop him from playing his favorite sport.
Bill Nye The Science Guy Was A Spin-Off
Following the immense popularity and success of Back To The Future trilogy, CBS started airing Back to the Future: The Animated Series in 1991. The Saturday morning show was coupled with live-action sequences featuring Doc Brown and his silent assistant played by Bill Nye conducting all sorts of elaborate science experiments. It seemed that Nye’s work on Almost Live was finally starting to land him some broader recognition.
CBS loved the bits so much that they considered giving Bill his own show. So when Back to the Future was canceled in 1993, it only took a couple of months for Bill Nye The Science Guy to premier – this time with Bill actually talking.
He Sent A Sundial To Mars
Ned Nye, Bill’s father, was sent to a Japanese internment camp during World War II. Having nothing better to do with his time while under lock and key, he built sundials out of old fence posts. He’d use little pebbles to mark the hours as they would pass.
That developed into a lifelong love-affair with sundials. Bill would inherit that obsession from his dad -becoming an avid builder and studier of the temporal devices as well.
Bill would eventually put his knowledge of the archaic devices to practical contemporary use by teaming up with NASA to develop the MarsDial – a device that uses a sundial to track time on Mars to calibrate the Mars Exploration Rovers’ cameras in order to take full-color photos of the red planet.
He Tried To Become An Astronaut
But unfortunately, he didn’t quite have what it takes for the job. He tried on many occasions to join the agency’s astronaut training program. In total, he applied four times but was rejected each time. His theory is that he wasn’t educated enough to meet NASA’s high standards. Most Astronauts have a PH. D but besides his 6 honorary doctorates, all he had was a Bachelor’s degree.
To be fair, NASA probably has pretty stringent requirements for their hires – and for good reason. Maybe Bill should have taken a card from them and used his intelligence to be a little more scrupulous when he got married to his crazy ex. We promise, we’ll give up the dirt on that scandalous chapter of his life in a little bit, but first, make sure you give us a like and subscribe to our channel. Tap the bell icon to turn on notifications so you can keep up with all of our latest videos.
Nye Holds Several Patents
Just because he helped invent a sundial to be used on another planet and a crucial component for jet engines doesn’t mean all of his product ideas have been quite as exotic or complex.
In 1994, Bill developed an educational magnifying glass that works by filling a plastic pouch with water, and in 2002, Nye filed a patent for a new variety of ballet shoe that gives increased foot support to a dancer when they are on the tip of their toes – a move that is called en pointe in the world of ballet.
He’s An Uber-Competitive Environmentalist
Bill Nye at one point lived in the same neighborhood in Studio City, California as Ed Bagley, the actor, and ardent environmentalist.
According to neighbors, Nye was the one that stirred up the spirit of competition by challenging Ed to a year-long competition to see who could live the most eco-friendly ‘green’ life.
Ed came out with guns blazing with his electric car, solar oven, and a picket fence that was made entirely of recycled milk cartons. But Bill hit back. He wasn’t about to have his name tarnished. So he equipped his home with solar panels, and he brought in some rain barrels for water collection and planted an impressive veggie garden in his backyard – making up for the one that was sabotaged by his ex – but we’ll get to that in a bit.
Much of this battle was actually filmed for the reality TV series Living with Ed which aired from 2007 to 2010.
Bill Nye’s Failed Marriage
In 2005, Bill read Mozart in the Jungle, an autobiographical memoir from the oboists Blair Tindall about her time as a member of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. The book would later be adapted into an acclaimed comedy series on Amazon Prime.
Nye was so blown away by the work, that he contacted her. Well, one thing led to another and the two fell madly in love.
Bill announced on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson in 2006 that he and Blair had gotten engaged.
The two were quickly wed in a ceremony officiated by super-star televangelist Rick Warren with accompanying music by Yo Yo Ma – but something went horribly wrong.
The couple received a letter from the state of California stating that their marriage license was invalid. Bill then decided that it was for the best that the two call off their relationship = a move that apparently infuriated Tindall.
She allegedly broke into his house and stole several of his personal belongings including his laptop – which she used to send disparaging and inflammatory emails in an attempt at character assassination.
She then came back dressed in all black and sprayed herbicide all over his garden – she claims that she only meant to kill his flowers so he could quote ‘never give another woman one of his roses again’. When Bill spotted her, he called her name and she fled on foot.
Nye later claimed that Blair threatened to poison him with the herbicidal substance by spraying it in his eyes and mouth.
Nevertheless, enough was enough. Nye filed a restraining order against his ex-not-quite-wife
The two later went to court and Blair was ordered to pay $57,000 and reparations to Nye, but to this day, she’s hasn’t paid him a penny.
If you find that chapter of Bill’s life to be shocking, just remember that most people have a crazy ex lurking in the shadows of their life. Just be glad that your ex didn’t try to destroy your garden and career in one swipe.
We always thought that bassists and drummers were the craziest people to date, but apparently it just might be concert oboists. Who would have guessed?
Now we would love to hear from you. Which Bill Nye show do you like the best? Are you a fan of the classic Bill Nye The Science Guy or do you prefer his later series Bill Nye Saves The World?
Let us know what you think in the comments.
And before you go, make sure you give us a like and subscribe to our channel if you haven’t already. Tap the bell icon to turn on notifications so you never have to miss another one of our facts-packed videos.