On this day in 1934, scientist and communicator Carl Edward Sagan was born in Brooklyn, NY. He was to become a great communicator of all things related to astronomy. He has played a key role over the years introducing millions to our place in the universe through his books, television series, speeches, and scientific work. His television series Cosmos was a milestone in educational television, bringing the stars and planets into everyone’s living room, while his books (Contact, Pale Blue Dot, The Dragons of Eden) continue to encourage the next generation of astronomers.
Dr. Sagan has a long resume, but I am most fascinated with his work to communicate with extraterrestrial life. He was a strong supporter of the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) and worked with NASA to ensure our spacecraft were equipped with a record of human activity to educate other planetary civilizations, including the gold records placed on the Pioneer 10 and 11 space probes as well as the two Voyager space probes.
Years ago, the Smithsonian magazine had a good summary of Dr. Sagan’s life in the article “Why Carl Sagan is Truly Irreplaceable.” I recommend the article as a good way to get to know the man, though delving into his books is even better.
Extra: Carl Sagan was also the founder and first president of the Planetary Society. Visit this Planetary Society site, Ann Druyan wishes you a happy Sagan Day, for more on Dr. Sagan’s work.