Timothy Ferris

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Timothy Ferris
Ferris in 2009
Born (1944-08-24) August 24, 1944 (age 79)
Nationality (legal)American
EducationCoral Gables Senior High School
Alma materNorthwestern University School of Law
Scientific career
FieldsAstronomy, 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. Ferris has produced three PBS documentaries: The Creation of the Universe, Life Beyond Earth, and Seeing in the Dark.

Background and education[edit]

Ferris is a native of Miami, Florida. He is a graduate of Coral Gables Senior High School in Coral Gables, Florida. 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.


After departing Northwestern Law School, Ferris joined United Press International as a reporter, where he worked in New York City.[3]

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; the planned flight was cancelled due to the Challenger disaster. He was also a friend of and collaborator with American astronomer Carl Sagan.

Ferris has taught astronomy, English, history, journalism, and philosophy at four universities. He is an emeritus professor at the University of California, Berkeley.[citation needed]


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.

The Rocky Hill Lectures[edit]

Ferris began a series of brief video lectures, available on YouTube during the COVID-19 pandemic. The series is named after his astronomical observatory in Northern California. Lecture topics include symmetry, time travel, global warming, interstellar homesteading, cities, progress, and liberalism. According to a review of the series, "Every lecture is crisp, compelling, and sure to shift your perspective and fuel your curiosity."[4] Another review notes, "In these compact lectures (most are shorter than 10 minutes), Ferris discourses on all manner of big topics—everything from time travel and quantum theory to liberalism and cynicism. The lectures are breezily erudite and blessedly compact—long enough to stimulate, not so long as to bore."[5]


  • Timothy Ferris (1977). The Red Limit: The Search for the Edge of the Universe. William Morrow & Co. ISBN 978-0-688-03176-3.
  • Carl Sagan; Frank D. Drake; Ann Druyan; Timothy Ferris; Jon Lomberg & Linda Salzman Sagan (1978). Murmurs of Earth: The Voyager Interstellar Record. Random House. ISBN 978-0-345-31536-6.
  • Timothy Ferris (1980). Galaxies. Sierra Club Books. ISBN 978-0-87156-273-9.
  • Timothy Ferris (1984). SpaceShots. Pantheon Books. ISBN 0-394-53890-0.
  • Bruce Porter; Timothy Ferris (1988). The Practice of Journalism. Prentice-Hall. ISBN 978-0-13-693706-7.
  • Timothy Ferris (1988). Coming of Age in the Milky Way. William Morrow & Co. ISBN 978-0-688-05889-0.
  • Timothy Ferris; Clifton Fadiman, eds. (1991). World Treasury of Physics, Astronomy, and Mathematics. Little Brown. ISBN 978-0-316-28129-4.
  • Timothy Ferris (1992). The Mind's Sky: Human Intelligence in a Cosmic Context. Bantam Books. ISBN 978-0-553-37133-8.
  • Timothy Ferris (1993). The Universe & Eye. Ingram Pinn (illust.). Pavilion Books. ISBN 978-0-517-15572-1.
  • Timothy Ferris (1997). The Whole Shebang: A State-of-the-Universe(s) Report. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-684-83861-8.
  • Timothy Ferris (2001). Life Beyond Earth. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-684-84937-9.
  • Timothy Ferris, ed. (2001). Best American Science Writing 2001. HarperCollins. ISBN 0-06-093648-7.
  • Timothy Ferris (2002). Seeing in the Dark: How Backyard Stargazers Are Probing Deep into the Universe and Guarding Earth from Interplanetary Peril. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-684-86579-3.
  • Timothy Ferris (2010). The Science of Liberty: Democracy, Reason, and the Laws of Nature. HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-06-078150-7.


  • 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.
  • Presenter, segment on American Epic, PBS premier May 30, 2017; also broadcast in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Australia, Israel, Spain, and Brazil. DVD and BR-DVD releases, PBS Home Video, 2017
  • He appeared in The Farthest, a 2017 documentary on the Voyager program.


  1. ^ Rogers, John (November 9, 1999). "Timothy Ferris hopes to stretch viewers' imaginations to possibilities of 'Life Beyond Earth'". The Spokesman-Review. AP. Retrieved March 20, 2012.
  2. ^ Bob Spichen: 'Milky Way' Author Comes of Age as a Modern Poet With His Head in the Stars, Los Angeles Times, September 2, 1988
  3. ^ Timothy Ferris Timeline Archived March 15, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, timothyferris.com
  4. ^ Pescovitz, David (September 2, 2022). "Science writer Timothy Ferris explains the Voyager Golden Record, Time Travel, Global Warming, Creativity, and other fascinating topics". Boing Boing. Archived from the original on June 20, 2023. Retrieved June 20, 2023.
  5. ^ Staff (June 8, 2023). "Rocky Hill Lectures". California Magazine. Archived from the original on June 20, 2023. Retrieved June 20, 2023.

External links[edit]