Carl Sagan, 1934 - 1996

 [Carl Sagan in Cosmos]

Born in New York in November 9, 1934.
Studied at the University of Chicago, where he received a Ph.D. in astrophysics.
Married to Ann Druyan.

Widely recognized for his scientific works, will probably be most remembered by his efforts to increase scientific literacy.

"Most organisms on Earth depend on their genetic information, which is 'prewired' into their nervous systems, to a much greater extent than they do on their extragenetic information, which is acquired during their lifetimes. For human beings, and indeed for all mammals, it is the other way around. While our behavior is still significantly controlled by our genetic inheritance, we have, trough our brains, a much richer opportunity to blaze new behavioral and cultural pathways on short time scales. We have made a kind of bargain with nature: our children will be difficult to rise, but their capacity for new learning will greatly enhance the capacity for survival of the human species. In addition, human beings have, in the most recent few tenths of a percent of our existence, invented not only extragenetic but also extrasomatic knowledge; information stored outside our bodies, of which writing is the most notable example."

(From "The Dragons of Eden")

"There is no guarantee that the universe will conform to our predispositions. But I do not see how we can deal with the universe - both the outside and the inside universe - without studying it. The best way to avoid abuses is for the populace in general to be scientifically literate, to understand the implications of such investigations. In exchange for freedom of inquiry, scientists are obliged to explain their work. If science is considered a closed priesthood, too difficult and arcane for the average person to understand, the dangers of abuse are greater. But if science is a topic of general interest and concern - if both its delights and its social consequences are discussed regularly and competently in the schools, the press, and at the dinner table - we have greatly improved our prospects for learning how the world really is and for improving both it and us."

(From "Broca's Brain")

Carl Sagan was central to the discovery of the high surface temperatures of Venus and the causes for the observed seasonal changes in the appearance of Mars.

He won the Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction in 1978 for The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence.

In 1980, his 13-part Public Broadcasting Service series "Cosmos" became one of the most popular series in the history of American public television.

Carl Sagan was the David Duncan Professor of Astronomy and Space Sciences and Director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University.

He was an important contributor to the Mariner, Viking and Voyager exploration missions.

He was awarded the NASA Medals for Exceptional Scientific Achievement, Apollo Achievement Award, and Distinguished Public Service (twice).
The international Astronautics prize: the Prix Galbert.
The Joseph Priestley Award "for distinguished contributions to the welfare of mankind".
The Masursky Award of the American Astronomical Society.
And in 1994, the Public Welfare Medal, the highest award of the NationalAcademy of Sciences.

Chairman of the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society.
Chairman of the Astronomy Section of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
President of the Planetology Section of the American Geophysical Union.
Editor in Chief of Icarus, the principal professional journal of Solar System studies.
Co-founder and President of The Planetary Society, the largest space-interest group in the world.

Asteroid 2709 Sagan, bears his name.

More than 400 published scientific and popular articles.

Carl Sagan died on Friday, December 20, 1996, at age 62.


Intelligent Life in the Universe (1966) (with I. S. Shklovskii)
The Cosmic Connection (1973): An Extraterrestrial Perspective
Mars and the Mind of Man (1973) (with Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Bruce Murray and Walter Sullivan)
Other Worlds (1975)
The Dragons of Eden (1978): Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence
Murmurs of Earth (1978): The Voyager Interstellar Record (with F. D. Drake, Ann Druyan, Timothy Ferrys, Jon Lomberg and Linda Salzman Sagan)
Broca's Brain (1979): Reflections On the Romance of Science
Cosmos (1980)
Contact (1985): A Novel
Comet (1985) (with Ann Druyan)
A Path Where No Man Thought (1990): Nuclear Winter and the End of Arms Race (with Richard Turco)
Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1992): A Search for Who We Are (with Ann Druyan)
Pale Blue Dot (1994): A Vision of the Human Future in Space
The Demon-Haunted World (1995): Science as a Candle in the Dark
Billions & Billions (1997): Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium (Posthumous, published by Ann Druyan)


Twenty years ago Carl Sagan presented the landmark television series Cosmos on PBS. Seen by over 600 million viewers in 20 countries, the Peabody and Emmy award-winnig series is arguably the most popular science television program ever produced.
The Best of COSMOS, a sellection of the greatest moments of the series, was broadcasted on PBS on November 2000.

The 13-part series is now available - remastered and digitally restored - on video, with a DVD version that offers subtitles in seven languages and Dolby sound. At The Carl Sagan Portal (Ann Druyan)


Reflections on a Mote of Dust - Carl Sagan (1934-1996) (Bill Arnett)
The Carl Sagan Portal (Ann Druyan)
"Contact" - Film Review (Larry Klaes)

Updated: December 26 '00, June 16 '14

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