Carl Sagan 1934 – 1996

Carl Sagan

Carl SaganPhoto credit: http://www.carlsagan.com/

He was a once-in-a-generation scientist who could make research both understandable and exciting to the lay public.  Carl Sagan arguably did more for the cause of science – and especially for astronomy and space research – than many of the famous names featured in college textbooks. 

Today is Carl Sagan’s 81st birthday; he died too young, at age 62.  But his formidable legacy continues to wield influence: anyone who has talked to students of astronomy has heard claims that they were attracted to the field thanks to Carl Sagan. 

In addition to hosting the most popular science television show of its time (“Cosmos”), Sagan authored more than a dozen books.  His efforts in the 1960s to make an early Russian tome, “Intelligent Life in the Universe,” available to English audiences brought SETI to the attention of mass audiences.

In addition to being a principal player in some of the most significant early explorations of our solar system (most notably, the Viking missions to Mars), Sagan participated in some pioneering SETI experiments, and – in the last year of his life –became a member of the SETI Institute’s Board of Trustees.  There could hardly be a better fit, as the Institute’s research program mirrors many of his astrobiology and SETI interests.

 

He brought science into the living rooms and ultimately the consciousness of millions of people.  Few have done so much.