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Nova pbs program.svg
The current Nova logo
Format Science Documentary
Created by Michael Ambrosino
Developed by Michael Ambrosino
Opening theme Walter Werzowa,
John Luker,
Musikvergnuegen, Inc.,
Ray Loring (additional)
Country of origin  United States
No. of episodes 640 (List of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Paula Apsell
Running time 55 minutes
Original channel PBS
Picture format HDTV
Original run March 3, 1974 – Present
External links
Official website

Nova is a popular science television series from the U.S. produced by WGBH Boston. It can be seen on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in the United States, and in more than 100 other countries.[1] It has also won a variety of major television awards, most of them many times over.[2]

Nova often includes interviews with scientists directly involved in the subject, and occasionally footage from the actual moment of a particular discovery. Some episodes have focused on historical aspects of science. Examples of topics include Colditz Castle, Drake equation, elementary particles, 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, Fermat's last theorem, global warming, moissanite, Project Jennifer, storm chasing, Unterseeboot 869, Vinland, and the Tarim mummies.

The Nova programs are praised for their good pacing, clear writing, and crisp editing, with a website accompanying each segment. Nova's websites have also won awards.[3]




Nova was created in 1974 by Michael Ambrosino,[4] inspired by the BBC 2 television series Horizon which Ambrosino had seen while working in the UK. In the early years many Nova episodes were either co-productions with the BBC Horizon team, or other documentaries originating outside of the United States, with the narration re-voiced in American English. Of the first 50 programs only 19 were original WGBH productions and the very first Nova episode The Making of a Natural History Film was originally an episode of Horizon.[5] The practice continues to this day. All the producers and associate producers for the original Nova teams came from either England (with experience on the Horizon series) or Los Angeles or New York.[6] Ambrosino was succeeded as executive producer by John Angier, John Mansfield, and Paula S. Apsell.


Nova has been recognized with multiple Peabody Awards and Emmy Awards. The series won a Peabody in 1974, citing it as "an imaginative series of science adventures", with a "versatility rarely found in television". Subsequent Peabodys went to specific episodes:[2]

  • "The Miracle of Life" (1983) was cited as a "fascinating and informative documentary of the human reproductive process" which used "revolutionary microphotographic techniques". The episode also won an Emmy.
  • "Spy Machines" (1987) was cited for "neatly recount[ing] the key events of the Cold War and look[ing] into the future of American/Soviet SDI competition."
  • "The Elegant Universe" (2003) was cited for exploring "science’s most elaborate and ambitious theory, the string theory" while making "the abstract concrete, the complicated clear, and the improbable understandable" by "blending factual story telling with animation, special effects, and trick photography." The episode also won an Emmy and a Peabody Award.

The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (responsible for documentary Emmys) recognized the series with awards in 1978, 1981, 1983, and 1989. Julia Cort won an Emmy in 2001 for writing "Life's Greatest Miracle". Emmys were also awarded for the following episodes:[2]

Three episodes were nominated for 2004 Emmys:

  • "Mars Dead or Alive"
  • "The Crash of Flight 111"
  • "The Most Dangerous Woman in America"

In 1998, the National Science Board of the National Science Foundation awarded Nova its first-ever Public Service Award.[2]


Funding for Nova is provided by Pacific Life, Merrill Lynch, ExxonMobil, David H. Koch, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and Viewers Like You.

Nova has had many underwriters over its 30+ year history, starting with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the viewers/stations of PBS. Other underwriters included The National Science Foundation, Polaroid (1974–), The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Exxon (1974–1981) (long before its merger with Mobil), TRW, The Arthur Vining Davis Foundation, Johnson & Johnson (1981–1994), AlliedSignal (1985–1988) (with Allied Corporation as its precursor; it was bought out by Honeywell in 1999), Prime Computer (1988–1989) (before being renamed Computervision in 1999), Lockheed Corporation (1989–1995) (before merging with Martin Marietta to become Lockheed Martin in 1995), Raytheon (1995–1996), Merck & Co. (1994–1997), Prudential (1996–1997), Park Foundation (1997–2005), Iomega Corporation. (1998–1999), Northwestern Mutual (1998–2002), CNET (1999–2000), Sprint Corporation (2000–2005), Microsoft (2003–2005), Google (2005–2006), Howard Hughes Medical Institute (2005–)[7], BP (2006), and the Dow Chemical Company (2007).

See also


  1. ^ "About Nova". PBS. Archived from the original on 2006-02-03.  
  2. ^ a b c d "Broadcast Awards Listed by Date". PBS. Retrieved 2008-01-23.  
  3. ^ "Web Site Awards Listed by Date". PBS. Retrieved 2008-01-23.  
  4. ^ "Michael Ambrosino bio page". Retrieved 2006-06-04.  
  5. ^ "Ambrosino and Nova: making stories that go 'bang'". Retrieved 2008-03-17.  
  6. ^ "NOVA: From the Beginning (1970s)". Retrieved 2008-03-17.  
  7. ^ "Howard Hughes Medical Institute sponsor page". Retrieved 2006-06-04.  

External links



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