Carl Edward Sagan, 1934 - 1996

portrait of Carl Sagan
NASA/JPL photo, 1980

Born: 9 November 1934, Brooklyn, New York
Died: 20 December 1996, Seattle, Washington

Bort to a Russian immigrant textile worker, the family moved to Rahway, New Jersey where Carl graduated from Rahway High School in 1951. Unable to learn about the stars from his family, his mother got him a library card at age five. He was similarly inspired by visiting the 1939 World's Fair at about the same time and at age six or seven he was going to the American Museum of Natural History, enjoying the planetarium and displays of dinosaurs and space objects. He attended the University of Chicago where he was a member of the Ryerson Astronomical Society and earned his B.A., B.S., M.S. in physics, and Ph.D. in astronomy and astrophysics (1954, 1955, 1956, and 1960).He was a Miller Fellow at the University of California at Berkeley for two years, then worked at the Smithsonian Observatory and lectured at Harvard from 1962 to 1968. He moved to Cornell University, becoming a full professor in 1971, and associate director of the Center for Radio Physics and Space Research there from 1972 to 1981, and taught a course on critical thinking at Cornell until his death.

Sagan was an advisor to NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for many years, he was responsible for the plaques on the Pioneer and Voyager spacecraft that have now left the solar system, designed to reveal something about mankind to some spacefaring race thousands of years from now, should there be any. He correctly predicted the surface temperature of Venus, that there were liquid seas on Saturn's moon Titan, and subsurface water on Jupiter's moon Europa, all later confirmed by probes. In addition to significant planetary science, he became the nations best-known popularizer of science, making an appearance on the cover of Time magazine following the thirteen-part Cosmos: A Personal Voyage which co-wrote, co-produced, and hosted on PBS. He was fond of large numbers, often saying "billions and billions", leading to the sagan, a unit of measurement, meaning at least four billion objects. For the last years of his life he fought myelodysplasia, including three bone marrow transplants, and had learned that he was in remission when he died of pneumonia at the Fred Hutchins Cancer Research Center.

Biography from Wikipedia and CrystaLinks

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