Carl Sagan (November 9, 1934 — December 20, 1996) was a famous speaker of the word "billions" as well as an astronomer, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, philosopher, and author who through his various books, including one screenplay which would become the film Contact, and the TV Series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, became widely known as "The People's Scientist". Apart from his popularizations of science, he also contributed to research in the fields of planetary science, spacecraft exploration of the solar system, and the radio Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). He also developed theories on topics such as the nature of extraterrestrial lifeforms, the environmental effects of nuclear war (nuclear winter), and more.In mainstream, he's somewhat of a star on Youtube; he's the centerpiece of the Symphony Of Science videos, which auto-tunes Sagan's Cosmos along with other science programs to create unexpectedly awesome music videos, which total at about 8 million views. His PaleBlueDot speech is also a big hit, the two most watched versions having 1.7 Million views combined. His work, although the bulk of it was done 30+ years ago, still stands tall today within science, an incredible accomplishment.Apart from his science-related work, he was also an activist to legalize marijuana, of which he was a regular user, and was very strongly opposed to the proliferation of nuclear weapons, even getting arrested in 1986 for interfering in a nuclear test. He was also a founder of the Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), which sought (and continues to seek, as the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry) to debunk most forms of paranormal claims (enlisting the assistance of James Randi and others). He was thrice married, first to biologist Lynn Margulis, then to artist Linda Salzman, and finally to author Ann Druyan, with whom he co-wrote Cosmos and several of his books.Fun Fact: His son Nick is a screenwriter who's done episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager.
Music from a Small Planet (with Ann Druyan), a Radio documentary about the Voyager Interstellar Record. note A golden disc containing Earth music, voice messages and photographs, copies of which were launched into space on the Voyager 1 and 2 space probes on the off-chance that aliens would find them in interstellar space.
"Billions and billions!" is one of Sagan's most oft-quoted terms, but he never actually said it that way. Sagan claimed he always pronounced "billions" with a strong, plosive B on the front so as to emphasize the fact that he wasn't just talking about mere millions. He also got rather annoyed when he did this at public speaking events and heard giggles from the audience. There's an awesome instance of Sagan Lampshading this trope and, in fact, subverting it in the opening pages of his collection of essays titled Billions and Billions:
I never said it. Honest. ... I said "billion" many times on the Cosmos television series, which was seen by a great many people. But I never said "billions and billions". [A page later.] For a while, out of childish pique, I wouldn't utter or write the phrase, even when asked to. But I've gotten over that. So, for the record, here goes: "Billions and billions."
His possibly unique pronunciation of the word "cosmos" provoked lots of mirth in Great Britain, especially after impressionists and parodists got hold of it. For many people in Britain, Cosmos was their first introduction to the non-double-entendre pronunciation of the word "Uranus" - the dominant local pronunciation had always been "yoor-anus" - and the fact Sagan appeared to be conscientiously avoiding the "your arse" joke only served to lampshade it more. Kids in school playgrounds soon caught on to the weird alternative pronunciation and made a joke of it.
Cool Teacher: Sagan tried to be this to the world, and for the most part he succeeded. More specifically, many of his own students are now celebrity scientists in their own right. (Neil deGrasse Tyson might be the best example.)
Erudite Stoner: Had toked many a joint in his lifetime. His wife Ann Druyan carries out his legacy as a popularizer of science and as president of the NORMLnote National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws Foundation Board of Directors.
Insignificant Little Blue Planet: Played with. On the one hand, he got a spacecraft, out almost 4 billion miles, to turn around and actually take a picture of the Earth as the eponymous Pale Blue Dot, and repeatedly argued that we shouldn't consider ourselves "privileged" or "special" over any other group of humans, or any other species, merely by birth. On the other hand, he spoke of humanity's potential to spread out into space and seek out its bearings in the cosmos, and that, while our homeworld Earth may be a tiny blue dot, it is the only place known to have evolved and sustained life, and there are no "better places", so far at least.
Large Ham: Sometimes comes across as this in his documentaries.
The planets of the galaxy might be FILLED with micro-organisms, but BIG beasts and vegetables and THINKING beings might be COMPARATIVELY RARE!
This was most likely a case of Director's Revenge, an inverted form of Protection from Editors, as there were difficulties between Sagan and the lead director on the set of Cosmos, which manifested itself in the editing and blocking portraying Sagan as quite a bit more self-involved than he desired.note David Whitehouse's 1999 biography of Sagan discusses the situation in detail.
Really Gets Around: At least part of the reason why he ended up getting married three times.
Romanticism Versus Enlightenment: Related to the above, a strong subversion. As indicated by the page quote, he believed that understanding the Universe (Enlightenment) did not detract from and even enhanced one's appreciation for nature (Romanticism).
Space Is an Ocean: Although the trope itself is averted, Sagan did make poetic analogies between the oceanic voyages in the Age of Exploration to the modern day exploration of the space - he called Earth the "shore of the cosmic ocean", and repeatedly referred to spacecraft, of all kinds - from small robotic probes like the Mariners and Voyagers, to grand hypothetical Bussard Ramjet interstellar designs - as "ships". Also, the Planetary Society's logo - a sailing ship against the backdrop of a ringed planet.
The episode of Cosmos about the Voyager space probes ended with an image of the Voyager morphing into a wooden sailing ship.
Take That: Directed against Sagan by Apple Computer. Near the height of Sagan's popularity in the mid 1990s, Apple had three tiers of the new Power Mac Intosh design they were working on, which would eventually be marketed as the 6100, 7100, and 8100. During development, as is common practice before the marketing names are settled upon, they had code names. The 6100 was "Cold Fusion," the 7100 was "Carl Sagan," and the 8100 was "Piltdown Man" — in other words, Sagan's name was grouped together with a known scientific hoax and a suspected (at the time) scientific hoax. When Sagan complained, they changed the code name for the 7100 to "Butt-head astronomer." (Sagan later sued them for this second slight; the judge threw the case out, saying "One does not seriously attack the expertise of a scientist using the undefined phrase 'butt-head'.")