Of the numerous ways to describe him, Carl Sagan is remembered as one of the greatest science communicators. Some of us are old enough to remember Sagan’s television series “Cosmos: A Personal Voyage”. The 13-part program covered a wide range of scientific topics. The series was co-developed with Sagan’s book Cosmos; the two were intended to compliment each other. The award winning television series became the most widely viewed series ever offered on American public television in its day.
Dr. Carl Sagan was the esteemed professor of astronomy and space sciences and the director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University. In his various other roles, Sagan served in key positions in the Mariner, Viking, Voyager, and Galileo space probe missions. His contributions earned Sagan the NASA Medals for Exceptional Scientific Achievement and two awards for Distinguished Public Service.
Dr. Sagan’s numerous public accolades included the Pulitzer Prize and the Oersted Medal for his notable contributions to physics education. He was given 20 honorary degrees from various universities and colleges for his numerous contributions to astronomy, education, literature, science, and preservation of the environment. The world lost Dr. Sagan on December 20, 1996. The National Science Foundation posthumously awarded Dr. Sagan their highest honor.
Cosmos was the best selling book on science ever published in the English language. Meantime, Sagan’s bestselling work of fiction, Contact, was the basis for the major film by the same name.
“We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.”–Carl Sagan
Through the years, I’ve found inspiration from Dr. Sagan’s numerous contributions. His knowledge and wisdom have opened my eyes to help understand science and humanity’s place in the Universe. Sagan’s works continue to provide a sane reference point in our current era of political and religious fanaticism.
While keeping in mind the manipulative nature of current movers and shakers, I re-sample Sagan’s expansive mind and boundless intelligence. Sagan’s works remind me that there are rational, humane people who are currently hard at work in research and scientific endeavors.
Those of us who are fans of Sagan appreciate how he could describe intellectually complex problems and scenarios in a way that made them comprehensible without condescension. His explanations seem poetic and not dry. He inspires the viewers’ and readers’ own intelligence. He encourages us to become fascinated and do our own investigations and research.
“The dangers of not thinking clearly are much greater now than ever before. It’s not that there’s something new in our way of thinking–it’s that credulous and confused thinking can be much more lethal in ways it was never before.”–Carl Sagan
Best of all was Dr. Sagan’s advocacy of the scientific method. Constructive, mindful skeptical thinking goes far in our struggles to improve civilization, and overall well-being of humanity.
Sagan graced our planet from 1934 until 1996. He deserves a special holiday of his own. Today’s commemoration of his life and accomplishments will serve to remind us of our own individual and species-wide potential. Sagan inspires us to strengthen our positive nature.
The Blue Jay of Happiness has another quote from Dr. Carl Sagan. “For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.”