Carl Sagan


While studying Anthropology, there are many relevant sub-categories that define the true nature of the science that is Anthropology. The field of astronomy is not only a pure science such as physics or chemistry, but it also has an anthropological aspect that theoretically explains earth’s origins, the human race’s evolution, and the environments in which these were created. One such man played a key role in revolutionizing thought in the late twentieth century pertaining to astronomy, evolution, and even biology. Carl E Sagan received many awards and was recognized by many people during his life. Believed by many to be the world’s greatest populizer of science, with his literature, research and teachings, he reached millions of people as an author, commentator of the popular PBS television series Cosmos, and as the David Duncan Professor of Astronomy and Space Sciences and director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University.

Born November 9, 1934, Sagan received doctorates in astronomy and astrophysics from the University of Chicago in 1960. He began his career at Harvard University, but became a Full Professor at Cornell in 1971. Sagan received numerous awards throughout his career including the Pulitzer Prize, as well as several honorary degrees from American colleges and Universities. Sagan had direct influence on many space missions such as NASA’s Mariner, Viking and Voyager missions, all of which involved study- of other planets within our solar system.

Sagan also did pioneering research in biology and evolution, both directly related to anthropology. While studying the universe and its history, Sagan posed many theories on the origin of the earth and mankind. Sagan published over 600 papers, wrote or co-wrote more than 20 books, commentated a mini-series on PBS called Cosmos, which was the most watched television show in history, generating more than 500 million viewers in over 60 countries. Near the end of his life even co-produced a movie based on his book Contact. Yervant Terzian, chairman of Cornell’s astronomy department once said after Sagan’s death: "Carl was a candle in the dark. He was, quite simply, the best science educator in the world this century. He touched hundreds of millions of people and inspired young generations to pursue the sciences. He will be deeply missed by his colleagues and friends at Cornell and around the world."

Sagan was the co-founder of The Planetary Society.  100,000 members strong, The Planetary Society is the largest space-interest group in the world. Along with the founding of this society, Sagan initiated a full-scale search of extraterrestrial intelligence by revolutionizing radio satellite technology. These efforts were Sagan’s lifelong passion. Unfortunately there has been no response or evidence of extraterrestrial life. Sagan once said, regarding his lifelong search for life in space, "The significance of finding that there are other beings that share this universe with us would be absolutely phenomenal, it would be an epochal event in human history."

Carl Sagan died on December 20, 1996 in Seattle. He was 62. Sagan touched many people during his life. He opened the eyes of many people to the unimaginable and invoked both thought and wonder to those around him. He made pivotal advances in many fields of science and inspired people around the world. Sagan was a man of many achievements and advances, but opening minds and eyes, teaching and discovering; those were his most important traits.


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By Luke Haeg