Carl Sagan (November 9th, 1934 –- December 20th, 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
, 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
expectedly awesome music videos, which total at about 8 million views. His Pale Blue Dot
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 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
Works he has been involved in include:
- Cosmos (Co-writer, host)
- Contact, both the novel and the movie (Writer)
- Music from a Small Planet (with Ann Druyan), a Radio documentary about the Voyager Interstellar Record note
- Threads (Scientific adviser)
- Symphony Of Science (He's credited as artist on a released single)
Books by Sagan include:
- The Dragons of Eden: Speculations of the Evolution of Human Intelligence - 1978
- Broca's Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science - 1979
- Cosmos - Book form, 1980
- Comet - With Ann Druyan, 1985
- Contact - Book form, 1985
- Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors: A Search for Who We Are - With Ann Druyan, 1993
- Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space - 1994. Video excerpts are pretty common online.
- The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark - 1996
- Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium - With Ann Druyan, 1997
His major scientific contributions include:
- Providing research and evidence crucial to our modern-day knowledge of conditions on Venus.
- Initiating groundbreaking research on extraterrestrial life, including contributions to SETI (Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence).
- Contributing to the Galileo (Jupiter), Viking (Mars), Voyager (Outer Solar System), and Mariner (Venus) probe missions.
- Advocacy for humankind's expansion into space. Was one of the founders of The Planetary Society, a space advocacy group known for, among other things, its work on solar sail propulsion.
- Warning about the dangers of anthropogenic climate change and nuclear war.
- Over 400 books and journal articles in which he was a lead or co-author. Sagan continued working even as he was dying of bone cancer in 1996.
Tropes often invoked by Sagan include: