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Carl Sagan

Astronomer / TV Personality

Born: 9 November 1934
Died: 20 December 1996
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York
Best known as:


The astronomer who did the TV series Cosmos


Astronomer and science popularizer Carl Sagan was best known for his 1980 documentary TV series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. The highly successful program, on public television, spawned a bestselling companion book that helped make Sagan one of the most famous faces in American science. He did his studies at the University of Chicago in the 1950s, earning his doctorate there in Astronomy and Astrophysics in 1960. He lectured at Harvard in the late 1960s, and after 1968 Sagan had a career-long relationship with New York's Cornell University as a lecturer and researcher. An advisor to NASA since the early 1970s, Sagan had a role in robotic space programs such as Pioneer and Voyager -- he was instrumental in designing interplanetary messages to whatever-might-be-out-there. His most visible role, however, was as a celebrity scientist who championed space exploration and studies into the origin of life. The recipient of numerous international awards, Sagan was a co-editor of Icarus, a journal of astronomy and planetary research, a co-founder of The Planetary Society and a best-selling author of several books on science. He also wrote the 1985 science fiction novel Contact, the basis for the 1997 Jodie Foster movie. Sagan died in 1996 after a bout with pneumonia, brought on by his battle with myelodysplastic syndrome, a blood disorder.

Extra credit:


Carl Sagan was politely parodied as the scientist who described the cosmos as being made up of "billions and billions" of stars, even though his actual phrase, from the book Cosmos, was "billions upon billions of stars."

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