Timothy Ferris

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Timothy Ferris
Timothy Ferris, Sonoma Mountain 13June09 photo Cal Zecca.jpg
Ferris in 2009
Born (1944-08-24) August 24, 1944 (age 73)
Residence United States
Nationality American
Education Coral Gables High School
Alma mater Northwestern University School of Law
Website www.timothyferris.com
Scientific career
Fields Astronomy, astrophysics, cosmology, astrobiology, space science, planetary science

Timothy Ferris (born August 29, 1944) is an American science writer and the best-selling author of twelve books, including The Science of Liberty (2010) and Coming of Age in the Milky Way (1988), for which he was awarded the American Institute of Physics Prize and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.[1] He also wrote The Whole Shebang: A State-of-the-Universe(s) Report (1997), a popular science book on the study of the universe.

Background and education[edit]

Ferris is a native of Miami, Florida, and a graduate of Coral Gables High School. He attended Northwestern University, graduating in 1966 with majors in English and communications.[2] He studied for one year at the Northwestern University Law School before joining United Press International as a reporter, working in New York City.[3]

Writing and NASA[edit]

After starting his career as a newspaper reporter, Ferris became an editor at Rolling Stone, where he initially specialized in science journalism. Ferris produced the Voyager Golden Record, an artifact of human civilization containing music, sounds of Earth and encoded photographs launched aboard the Voyager 1 spacecraft. He has served as a consultant to NASA on long-term space exploration policy, and was among the journalists selected as candidates to fly aboard the Space Shuttle in 1986. He was also a friend of and collaborator with American astronomer Carl Sagan.


Ferris is a Guggenheim fellow and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). He won the Klumpke-Roberts Award of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific in 1986, and has twice won the American Institute of Physics science-writing medal and the American Association for the Advancement of Science writing prize.


Ferris has taught astronomy, English, history, journalism, and philosophy at four universities; he is currently an emeritus professor at the University of California, Berkeley.


  • "In diversity there is strength."
  • "If you have to make a decision, you've already made a mistake."
  • "It takes all kinds to make an individual."
  • "Art in its uniqueness rescues each culture from the strictures of mere progress." (1992 Nobel Conference address)
  • "The truth is quite slippery enough; it requires no spin, polish, or lubrication."
  • "All fiction aspires to the condition of nonfiction."
  • "A lot of what I do consists of pointing out that there is more to the world than this world, and more to this world than we know. This idea got hold of me years ago, and never let go. It is my author." (Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series, Vol. 30.)
  • "The mind is eternally presented with a choice between learning and reassurance."
  • "Technological advances are like planets: The bigger their bright side, the bigger their dark side."
  • "Each bright day is snatched from darkness."
  • "Time parts us: As the tree grows, its branches diverge."
  • "Stand under the stars and say what you like to them. Praise or blame them, question them, pray to them, wish upon them. The universe will not answer. But it will have spoken." (Galaxies, Introduction)
  • "To profess, or to exemplify? That is the question."
  • "Never stop learning. Cherish your ignorance. Look on the world with reverence. Eschew piety. Do no wanton harm. Fear not. Spread cheer." (Reply to a 1987 questionnaire asking for a "summary of your beliefs or credo.")


Articles and essays[edit]

Ferris has published more than 200 articles and essays, including forwards to other authors' books and memoirs.


  • Producer, narrator, and writer, Seeing in the Dark, sixty-minute documentary film, PBS premier September 19, 2007; DVD and BR-DVD releases, PBS Home Video, 2008.
  • Author and narrator, Life Beyond Earth, two-hour PBS television special, world premier November 10, 1999; DVD release, PBS Home Video, 2000.
  • Author and narrator, The Creation of the Universe, ninety-minute television science special; U.S. premier, PBS network, November 20, 1985; also broadcast in the United Kingdom, Japan, Sweden, Norway, Italy, Venezuela, and Brazil. Inaugural release, PBS Home Video, 1991; laserdisc release, Pacific Arts Video, 1992; CD-ROM release, The Voyager Company, 1993; DVD release, PBS Home Video, 2005.
  • Writer and narrator, segments on The MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour, PBS television: "Exploding Stars and the Origins of Human Civilization", October 21, 1993; "Pipe Organs and Particle Accelerators", June 8, 1993; "Columbus Day," October 7, 1992; and "The Voyager Encounter With Neptune," August 22, 1989.


External links[edit]