Sign In | Register

Carl Sagan

1934 - 1996

What an astonishing thing a book is.

It's a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you're inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic." - Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan was a Pulitzer and Hugo award-winning author of books about science for the layman. He started his career as an astronomer and college professor and quickly expanded into popularizing the understanding of science and scientific discovery. He did this through writing books, essays and articles, as well as appearing on television series and talk shows. He has often been called the most famous American scientist.

He was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1934. By the time he was 26 years old he had earned bachelor and master's degrees at Cornell University as well as a double doctorate at the University of Chicago. Sagan became a professor of astronomy and space science at Cornell and was co-founder of the Planetary Society. For twelve years he was the editor-in-chief of Icarus, the leading professional journal devoted to planetary research.

Most fans of Carl Sagan first saw him on the Emmy winning PBS television series Cosmos, which was rebooted in 2014 with popular astrophysicist Neal DeGrasse Tyson serving as host. The book Cosmos was written by Sagan with 13 chapters, to correspond with the 13 episodes of the PBS broadcast. Cosmos spent 70 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list, became the best-selling science book ever published in its day, and received a Hugo Award for Best Non-Fiction Book in 1981. The popularity of Cosmos, both the book and TV series, jump-started Sagan's career as a writer and helped to make science writing more popular in general.

Before Cosmos there was The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence, which won the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 1978. In this work Sagan combines multiple fields - anthropology, psychology, evolutionary biology and computer science - to explore the nature of human intelligence and how it may have evolved.

His only novel, Contact, was adapted for the screen and starred Jodi Foster as Dr Eleanor "Ellie" Arroway. The book was published in 1985. The film was released in July of 1997, less than a year after Carl Sagan's death.