Carl Sagan

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Carl Sagan bigraphy, stories - Astronomy and planetary science

Carl Sagan : biography

1934-11-9 – 20 December 1996

Carl Edward Sagan ( November 9, 1934 – December 20, 1996) was an American astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, science popularizer and science communicator in astronomy and natural sciences. He spent most of his career as a professor of astronomy at Cornell University where he directed the Laboratory for Planetary Studies. He published more than 600 scientific papersSome of Carl Sagan’s on NASA ADS and articles and was author, co-author or editor of more than 20 books. He advocated scientific skeptical inquiry and the scientific method, pioneered exobiology and promoted the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI).

Sagan is known for his popular science books and for the award-winning 1980 television series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, which he narrated and co-wrote. The book Cosmos was published to accompany the series. Sagan wrote the novel Contact, the basis for a 1997 film of the same name.

Sagan also appeared on a television special The Earth Day Special which aired April 22, 1990.

Scientific advocacy

Sagan’s ability to convey his ideas allowed many people to understand the cosmos better—simultaneously emphasizing the value and worthiness of the human race, and the relative insignificance of the Earth in comparison to the universe. He delivered the 1977 series of Royal Institution Christmas Lectures in London. He hosted and, with Ann Druyan, co-wrote and co-produced the highly popular thirteen-part PBS television series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage modeled on Jacob Bronowski’s The Ascent of Man.

Cosmos covered a wide range of scientific subjects including the origin of life and a perspective of our place in the universe. The series was first broadcast by the Public Broadcasting Service in 1980, winning an Emmy and a Peabody Award. It has been broadcast in more than 60 countries and seen by over 500 million people, making it the most widely watched PBS program in history. In addition, Time magazine ran a cover story about Sagan soon after the show broadcast, referring to him as "creator, chief writer and host-narrator of the new public television series Cosmos, [and] takes the controls of his fantasy spaceship"., cover story, Oct. 20, 1980

Sagan was a proponent of the search for extraterrestrial life. He urged the scientific community to listen with radio telescopes for signals from potential intelligent extraterrestrial life-forms. Sagan was so persuasive that by 1982 he was able to get a petition advocating SETI published in the journal Science and signed by 70 scientists including seven Nobel Prize winners. This was a tremendous increase in the respectability of this controversial field. Sagan also helped Dr. Frank Drake write the Arecibo message, a radio message beamed into space from the Arecibo radio telescope on November 16, 1974, aimed at informing potential extraterrestrials about Earth.

Sagan was chief technology officer of the professional planetary research journal Icarus for twelve years. He co-founded the Planetary Society, the largest space-interest group in the world, with over 100,000 members in more than 149 countries, and was a member of the SETI Institute Board of Trustees. Sagan served as Chairman of the Division for Planetary Science of the American Astronomical Society, as President of the Planetology Section of the American Geophysical Union, and as Chairman of the Astronomy Section of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

At the height of the Cold War, Sagan became involved in public awareness efforts for the effects of nuclear war when a mathematical climate model suggested that a substantial nuclear exchange could upset the delicate balance of life on Earth. He was one of five authors – the "S" – of the "TTAPS" report, as the research paper came to be known. He eventually co-authored the scientific paper hypothesizing a global nuclear winter following nuclear war.Turco RP, Toon OB, Ackerman TP, Pollack JB, Sagan C. Climate and smoke: an appraisal of nuclear winter, Science, volume 247, pages 166–176 (1990). link to full text article. Carl Sagan discussed his involvement in the political nuclear winter debates and his erroneous global cooling prediction for the Gulf War fires in his book, The Demon-Haunted World. He also co-authored the book A Path Where No Man Thought: Nuclear Winter and the End of the Arms Race, a comprehensive examination of the phenomenon of nuclear winter.