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Derrick Pitts

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Information about Derrick Pitts

Profile image of Derrick Pitts

Profession

Category:
ScienceMakers
Occupation(s):
Atmospheric Scientist

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Lamb Biryani
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
St. Lucia
Favorite Quote:
Sure, Why Not.

Birthplace

Born:
1/22/1955
Birth Location:
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Profession

Category:
ScienceMakers
Occupation(s):
Atmospheric Scientist

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Lamb Biryani
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
St. Lucia
Favorite Quote:
Sure, Why Not.

Birthplace

Born:
1/22/1955
Birth Location:
Philadelphia
See how Derrick Pitts is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Astronomer Derrick Pitts was born on January 22, 1955 in the Tioga-Nicetown section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As a child, Pitts was fascinated by outer space and rockets. After graduating from Germantown Academy, he received his B.S. degree in geology from St. Lawrence University in 1978.

Pitts began working at The Franklin Institute as a young college student. He was hired as The Franklin Institute’s chief astronomer and planetarium director after completing his degree. In these roles, he developed and oversaw all of the Institute’s astronomy and space-related programs and exhibits, frequently hosted the live “Sky Tonight” planetarium show and interviewed John Glenn and Carl Sagan. Pitts also served as the original director of Tuttleman OMNIMAX Theater and as museum vice president. In 2002, he oversaw the renovation of The Franklin Institute’s Fels Planetarium and played an integral role in the design of the new astronomy exhibit, ‘Space Command.’ Pitts became the host of “SkyTalk” on WHYY Radio in 2008. One year later, he served as the United States spokesperson for the International Year of Astronomy. In 2011, Pitts was named a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Solar System Ambassador. He has appeared on many national television shows as a science expert including the Comedy Channel’s “Colbert Report” and “The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson.” Pitts served as a regular contributor on Current TV’s Countdown with Keith Olberman as well as programs on CNN International and MSNBC.

Pitts has held numerous positions in academic and community organizations including serving as president of the Greater Philadelphia Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. and on the Board of Trustees for his alma mater St. Lawrence University and Widener University. He is the recipient of numerous awards including the Mayor’s Liberty Bell, the St. Lawrence University Distinguished Alumni Award, the G. W. Carver Medal and Please Touch Museum’s “Great Friend To Kids” Award. Pitts was inducted into the Germantown Historical Society Hall of Fame and selected as one of the “50 Most Important Blacks in Research Science” by Science Spectrum Magazine in 2004. He received the 2010 David Rittenhouse Award and an honorary Doctor of Science degree from LaSalle University in 2011. Pitts lives with his wife Linda in the Wynnefield Heights section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Derrick Pitts was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on May 23, 2012.

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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Derrick Pitts slates the interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Derrick Pitts talks about his mother's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Derrick Pitts talks about his mother's career ambitions
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Derrick Pitts talks about his father's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Derrick Pitts talks about meeting his grandfather
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Derrick Pitts talks about his father's life and career
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Derrick Pitts talks about how his parents met
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Derrick Pitts talks about his father's military experience
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Derrick Pitts talks about the similarities between him and his parents
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Derrick Pitts talks about his childhood neighborhood
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Derrick Pitts describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his growing up
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Derrick Pitts talks about his early appreciation for science
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Derrick Pitts talks about what his father taught him about the moon
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Derrick Pitts talks about his scientific philosophy
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Derrick Pitts discusses how astronomical events excited him about science
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Derrick Pitts talks about his relationship with his brother
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Derrick Pitts talks about the role of church in his life
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Derrick Pitts discusses the conflict between religion and science
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Derrick Pitts talks about his experience at Gillespie Junior High School
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Derrick Pitts describes how his neighborhood street helped him understand the sky
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Derrick Pitts talks about his childhood role model and favorite television show
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Derrick Pitts talks about his junior high school mentors
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Derrick Pitts describes one of his favorite science demonstrations
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Derrick Pitts shares what inspires him to be a scientist and educator
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Derrick Pitts talks about his experience at Gillespie Junior High School
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Derrick Pitts talks about seeing the first moon landing
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Derrick Pitts talks about the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. Martin Luther King
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Derrick Pitts talks about his experience at Georgetown Academy
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Derrick Pitts talks about the schools that he and his brother attended
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Derrick Pitts talks about his mentors in high school
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Derrick Pitts talks about his favorite music teacher and his experience in the choir
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Derrick Pitts talks about the first African American teacher at Germantown Academy
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Derrick Pitts talks about his academic struggles and social triumphs
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Derrick Pitts talks about his best friend from Germantown Academy
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Derrick Pitts talks about his experience at Germantown Academy
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Derrick Pitts talks about his decision to go to St. Lawrence University
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Derrick Pitts talks about learning how to be a better student
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Derrick Pitts talks about his experience at St. Lawrence University
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Derrick Pitts reflects on his career ambitions prior to graduating
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Derrick Pitts discusses why he never went to graduate school
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Derrick Pitts talks about his career
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Derrick Pitts talks about the effect he has on youth by being on TV
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Slating of Derrick Pitts interview, session 2
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Derrick Pitts remembers his job offer at The Franklin Institute Science Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Derrick Pitts talks about his first position at The Franklin Institute Science Museum observatory
  • Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Derrick Pitts describes the observatory at The Franklin Institute Science Museum
  • Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Derrick Pitts explains the difference between observatories and planetariums
  • Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Derrick Pitts remembers his early career options
  • Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Derrick Pitts recalls his early years at The Franklin Institute Science Museum
  • Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Derrick Pitts talks about his early roles at The Franklin Institute Science Museum
  • Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Derrick Pitts remembers the leading directors at the Fels Planetarium
  • Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Derrick Pitts remembers the Fels Planetarium's early directors
  • Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Derrick Pitts talks about Benjamin Franklin and his interest in science
  • Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Derrick Pitts describes his role as show producer at the Fels Planetarium at The Franklin Institute Science Museum, pt. 1
  • Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Derrick Pitts talks about the influence of the television show 'Cosmos: A Personal Voyage' and its host Carl Sagan
  • Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Derrick Pitts remembers Carl Sagan
  • Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Derrick Pitts describes his role as show producer at the Fels Planetarium at The Franklin Institute Science Museum, pt. 2
  • Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Derrick Pitts remembers the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster
  • Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Derrick Pitts recalls his press conference following the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster
  • Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Derrick Pitts reflects upon the impact of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster
  • Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Derrick Pitts talks about his interest in science and astronomy
  • Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Derrick Pitts describes the history of planetariums
  • Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Derrick Pitts explains the use of an observatory
  • Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Derrick Pitts talks about the black community's reception to his career success
  • Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Derrick Pitts talks about the impact of new technologies at The Franklin Institute Science Museum
  • Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Derrick Pitts describes his typical workday and how it's impacted his personal life
  • Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Derrick Pitts remembers his promotions
  • Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Derrick Pitts talks about African Americans at The Franklin Institute Science Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Derrick Pitts talks about African Americans in the field of astronomy
  • Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Derrick Pitts talks about the impact of IMAX technology
  • Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Derrick Pitts describes the organizational restructuring at The Franklin Institute Science Museum
  • Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Derrick Pitts remembers developing the television program 'Neptune All Night'
  • Tape: 10 Story: 6 - Derrick Pitts describes the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute (SETI)
  • Tape: 10 Story: 7 - Derrick Pitts talks about the impact of the internet on astronomy
  • Tape: 10 Story: 8 - Derrick Pitts describes his work with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
  • Tape: 11 Story: 1 - Derrick Pitts remembers considering leaving The Franklin Institute Science Museum in the late 1990s
  • Tape: 11 Story: 2 - Derrick Pitts recalls his work on a cruise ship to view a total solar eclipse, pt. 1
  • Tape: 11 Story: 3 - Derrick Pitts recalls his work on a cruise ship to view a total solar eclipse, pt. 2
  • Tape: 11 Story: 4 - Derrick Pitts remembers the hiring of Dennis Wint at The Franklin Institute Science Museum
  • Tape: 11 Story: 5 - Derrick Pitts describes Dennis Wint
  • Tape: 11 Story: 6 - Derrick Pitts recalls his appearances on 'Countdown with Keith Olbermann'
  • Tape: 11 Story: 7 - Derrick Pitts talks about the renovations of the Joel N. Bloom Observatory at The Franklin Institute Science Museum
  • Tape: 11 Story: 8 - Derrick Pitts talks about the developments at The Franklin Institute Science Museum
  • Tape: 12 Story: 1 - Derrick Pitts talks about African American representation in the sciences
  • Tape: 12 Story: 2 - Derrick Pitts describes his work with the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc.
  • Tape: 12 Story: 3 - Derrick Pitts talks about his civic work in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Tape: 12 Story: 4 - Derrick Pitts remembers Major General Charles Bolden, Jr.
  • Tape: 12 Story: 5 - Derrick Pitts recalls the star party at the White House
  • Tape: 12 Story: 6 - Derrick Pitts talks about the future of The Franklin Institute Science Museum
  • Tape: 12 Story: 7 - Derrick Pitts describes his work on national television programs as a science communicator
  • Tape: 12 Story: 8 - Derrick Pitts describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community, pt. 1
  • Tape: 13 Story: 1 - Derrick Pitts describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community, pt. 2
  • Tape: 13 Story: 2 - Derrick Pitts reflects upon his life
  • Tape: 13 Story: 3 - Derrick Pitts reflects upon his legacy
  • Tape: 13 Story: 4 - Derrick Pitts describes Neil deGrasse Tyson
  • Tape: 13 Story: 5 - Derrick Pitts talks about his family
  • Tape: 13 Story: 6 - Derrick Pitts reflects upon the state of STEM education
  • Tape: 13 Story: 7 - Derrick Pitts talks about developing children's interest in science
  • Tape: 13 Story: 8 - Derrick Pitts recalls the Chelyabinsk Event
  • Tape: 13 Story: 9 - Derrick Pitts describes how he would like to be remembered