Talk About Badass: Bill Nye's Mom Was a Code Breaker During WWII

"My mom was a big believer in women doing everything."

Billy Nye when he was a kid with his mum
(Image credit: Vimeo)

Bill Nye is best known for making science cool and fun growing up. In fact, many consider him their favorite teacher/ultimate science rockstar. And it all makes sense when you learn more about his mother, a woman who seriously broke codes—and barriers—by working in the Navy during WWII. 

According to BuzzFeed (opens in new tab), Jacqueline Jenkins-Nye worked with Enigma machines, which basically broke code to intercept and decipher German messages during WWII and are credited with shortening the war by a year and a half. 

Kickstarter (opens in new tab) has been going on to fund a documentary about Nye, and the revelations about his mother have already been filmed. "She wasn't Rosie the Riveter, she was Rosie the Top-Secret Code Breaker," he remembers. "People would ask her what she did during World War II and she'd say, 'I can't talk about it, ha ha ha!'" 

In large part because of the influence of his mother, Nye is just as invested in having more women represented in STEM careers—"I would remind us that half of the humans are girls and women, so why don't we have half of the scientists be women?" 

Go on Bill, go on. Watch the snippet below and check out the Kickstarter page (opens in new tab) for more information on how to fund the project.

Samantha Leal is the Deputy Editor at Well+Good, where she spends most of her day thinking of new ideas across platforms, bringing on new writers, overseeing the day-to-day of the website, and working with the awesome team to produce the best stories and packages. Before W+G, she was the Senior Web Editor for Marie Claire and the Deputy Editor for Latina.com, with bylines all over the internet. Graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University with a minor in African history, she’s written everything from travel guides to political op-eds to wine explainers (currently enrolled in the WSET program) to celebrity profiles. Find her online pretty much everywhere @samanthajoleal.