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Carl Sagan (1934–1996)

Author of Contact

93+ Works 42,661 Members 504 Reviews 258 Favorited

About the Author

A respected planetary scientist best known outside the field for his popularizations of astronomy, Carl Sagan was born in New York City on November 9, 1934. He attended the University of Chicago, where he received a B.A. in 1954, a B.S. in 1955, and a M.S. in 1956 in physics as well as a Ph.D. in show more 1960 in astronomy and astrophysics. He has several early scholarly achievements including the experimental demonstration of the synthesis of the energy-carrying molecule ATP (adenosine triphosphate) in primitive-earth experiments. Another was the proposal that the greenhouse effect explained the high temperature of the surface of Venus. He was also one of the driving forces behind the mission of the U.S. satellite Viking to the surface of Mars. He was part of a team that investigated the effects of nuclear war on the earth's climate - the "nuclear winter" scenario. Sagan's role in developing the "Cosmos" series, one of the most successful series of any kind to be broadcast on the Public Broadcasting System, and his book The Dragons of Eden (1977) won the Pulitzer Prize in 1978. He also wrote the novel Contact, which was made into a movie starring Jodie Foster. He died from pneumonia on December 20, 1996. (Bowker Author Biography) show less


Works by Carl Sagan

Contact (1985) 9,236 copies
Pale Blue Dot : A Vision of the Human Future in Space (1994) — Author — 2,934 copies
Broca's Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science (1979) — Author — 2,250 copies
The Cosmic Connection (1973) 1,015 copies
Comet (1985) 883 copies
Contact [1997 film] (1997) 373 copies
Cosmos {1980 TV series} (1970) 120 copies
UFO's: A Scientific Debate (1972) — Editor — 97 copies
Other Worlds (1975) 50 copies
Mars and the Mind of Man (1971) 43 copies
Life in the Universe (1987) 17 copies
Planetary Exploration (1970) 6 copies
The Burden of Skepticism (1987) 4 copies
Wonder And Skepticism (1995) 4 copies
Origins of Life 3 copies
Cosmos Livro 1 (1991) 3 copies
COSMOS DISC 5 2 copies
COSMOS DISC 3 2 copies
Dunya'dan Fısıltılar (2020) 2 copies
sagan 2 copies
Cosmos(korean Version) (2006) 2 copies
Planetary atmospheres (2012) 2 copies
The Cosmosphere (1981) 1 copy
Blekitna kropka (2020) 1 copy
Dragons of Eden (1988) 1 copy
Articles 1 copy
Cosmos, Episodes 11 & 12 — Author — 1 copy
Definitions of Life (2010) 1 copy

Associated Works

A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes (1988) — Introduction, some editions — 14,302 copies
The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing (2008) — Contributor — 803 copies
The Faith Healers (1987) — Foreword — 276 copies
Atheism: A Reader (2000) — Contributor — 184 copies
The Planets (1983) — Foreword, some editions — 84 copies
The Spear of Mars (1980) — Contributor — 70 copies
The Outer Edge (1996) — Introduction — 47 copies


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Common Knowledge

Canonical name
Sagan, Carl
Legal name
Sagan, Carl Edward
Date of death
Burial location
Lakeview Cemetery, Ithaca, New York, USA
Brooklyn, New York, USA
Place of death
Seattle, Washington, USA
Cause of death
Places of residence
Ithaca, New York, USA
Rathway, New Jersey, USA
University of Chicago (BA ∙ 1954 ∙ BS ∙ Physics ∙ 1955)
University of Chicago (MS ∙ Physics ∙ 1956)
University of Chicago (Ph.D ∙ Astronomy and Astrophysics ∙ 1960)
science writer
television presenter
Margulis, Lynn (first wife)
Druyan, Ann (third wife)
Sagan, Dorion (son)
Sagan, Nick (son)
Salzman, Linda (second wife)
Cornell University
Harvard University
American Astronautical Society
American Astronomical Society
American Geophysical Union
Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (show all 15)
American Association for the Advancement of Science
Children's Health Fund Advisory Board
Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CISCOP)
Council for a Livable World
Council on Foreign Relations
Federation of American Scientists
Guggenheim Foundation
International Academy of Humanism
Planetary Society
Awards and honors
Fellow, American Physical Society (1989)
American Philosophical Society (1995)
International Space Hall of Fame (2004)
Pulitzer Prize (1978)
John F. Kennedy Astronautics Award (1982)
Joseph Priestley Award (1976) (show all 32)
Konstantin Tsiolkovsky Medal (Awarded by the Soviet Cosmonauts Federation, 1987)
Harold Masursky Award for Meritorious Service to Planetary Science (1991)
Explorers Club, Lowell Thomas Award (1980)
Oersted Medal (1990, American Association of Physics Teachers)
Public Welfare Medal (1994)
NASA Distinguished Service Medal (1977)
Emmy (Outstanding Individual Achievement, 1981)
Emmy (Outstanding Informational Series, 1981)
Humanist of the Year (1981)
Hugo Award (1981, 1988)
Isaac Asimov Award (1994)
Peabody Award (1980)
Klumpke-Roberts Award (1974)
Golden Plate Award (1975)
Locus Award (1986)
Grand-Cross, Order of Saint James of the Sword (1998)
Pantheon of Skeptics (2011)
NASA Apollo Achievement Award (1970)
Prix Galabert (1973)
Peter Lavan Award (1984)
New Priorities Award (1984)
Sidney Hillman Foundation Prize Award (1984)
SANE National Peace Award (1984)
Olive Branch Award (1984, 1986, 1989)
Leo Szilard Award for Physics in the Public Interest (1985)
Nahum Goldmann Medal (1986)
Morton Janklow
Short biography
Carl Edward Sagan (November 9, 1934 – December 20, 1996) was an American astronomer, astrophysicist, author, and highly successful popularizer of astronomy, astrophysics and other natural sciences. He pioneered exobiology and promoted the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI).

He is world-famous for writing popular science books and for co-writing and presenting the award-winning 1980 television series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, which has been seen by more than 500 million people in over 60 countries.[2] A book to accompany the program was also published. He also wrote the novel Contact, the basis for the 1997 film of the same name. During his lifetime, Sagan published more than 600 scientific papers and popular articles and was author, co-author, or editor of more than 20 books. In his works, he frequently advocated skeptical inquiry, secular humanism, and the scientific method.



Group Read, April 2016: Contact in 1001 Books to read before you die (April 2016)


A valued collection of essays on various topics of science and society, with the characteristic wit of Carl Sagan
hcubic | 15 other reviews | May 8, 2024 |
Once in about the year 2001 previous to the events of 9-11, I was in college and not enjoying the experience. I set foot into a store called On Cue which had an assortment of items such as cds and books and lava lamps. In a section, somewhat to my then irritation, marked metaphysics, was the book The Demon Haunted World I was a psychology major at that juncture, and the emphasis was on science and metaphysics was a naughty word. Surely, Sagan, preeminent among scientists would not have written a metaphysical book?

The book, when I read it then, had a huge impact upon me. It was not so much what it said, but rather that I believed much in an opposite way to what it was saying. The same was true of my psychology major which was part of my misery. What Sagan had to say about science became, to me, the exact sort of arguments as to why science could not work. I appreciated much of what Sagan was saying about the method, we simply disagreed on how and why and when it could be used and what the limitations of such a method were.

What I did not remember having read it again was all the alien abduction time and energy Sagan put into this book, along with fairly frequent allusions to Satan or Satanism or all the above. Nearly half the book is about this content. When someone spends that much time on trying to refute something, the old quote "Thou doth protest too much" comes to mind. Sagan, being a major part of the space community, was in a position to know some things others did not. Whether or not he neglects to mention those things or looked the other way is a matter of opinion on the basis of this book. At the very least, some large mechanisms of denial are present.

The book then, was metaphysical after all mostly because it is not resting on science to prove or disprove any of these claims, but it talks about how science ought to work or does work. A discussion of that sort is epistemological, which is necessarily metaphysical.

Likewise, Sagan finds himself in domains he does not fully understand. When he goes after astrology, it appears that he is going after a simple sun sign. A sun sign is no where near the operational definition of astrology just like the term mathematics does not fully describe quantum mechanics. One must learn quite a lot of very specific mathematics before one begins to be conversant on a quantum matter. Why then does Sagan not invest the time in properly defining astrology? Probably because he is using a straw man version to kick around. He's guilty of this several times over in this work.

What I noticed now, with the wisdom of twenty years added to my tenure on the planet in this work is that Sagan is struggling between his natural childhood inclination to believe in magical things, and the world of adults and what is real and pragmatic. The child Sagan grows up into an adult who though they might wish magical things were real, cannot find a platform on which to stand in order to substantiate their existence and so concludes no such things are real. Instead, the magic is transferred to the laws of nature and what one can do with them. These laws in Sagan's mind are codified within the body of Science.

Alas, the candle of science is not going to keep the demons away. For that, one is more likely to have success with a Bible. The reason science cannot keep the demons away is because it does not believe in them in the first place, which suits the demons just fine. Though Sagan takes careful pains to bash the Bible as being blood-thirsty, it occurs to me that nowhere did God suggest to Moses or Joshuah to build a hydrogen and/or an atomic bomb. No, it would seem those whispers were only heard by the God of Science, whoever or whatever that may be. When this bastard child that possibly destroys the whole globe was born, the scientists were lauded as heroes and geniuses. For every person science saves from death with penicillin, surely the potential to destroy the entire world of all living things negates the advance?

No one ought to go about life believing everything he or she is told. This includes works by scientists. If Sagan's book can withstand a scientific sort of scrutiny applied to it, would it not be the case that the work would pass his own test? And, on the other hand, if it does not, would that not mean it has failed in the endeavor it outlines? Herein lies the key. In the desperation to dismiss authority and find the limits of knowledge, one often finds themselves as an authority imparting knowledge. We become the shadow of the thing we were struggling to come to terms with. Unfortunately, Sagan does this.

Despite all this, however, I still found some gems in this book and again it has informed my thinking in a way it could not have done before and does not intend to do. Perhaps Sagan's book is close enough to some truths even if it is denying them that they sprout despite the wishes of the author. In that, I suppose Sagan would find himself in the company of Peter, and hopefully not in the company of Judas.
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jbschirtrzinger | 105 other reviews | Apr 23, 2024 |
The Demon Haunted World is pure Carl Sagan. A full volume of Mr. Sagan proving that he was not only smarter than most of us, he was wittier. This book is nothing more than several hundred pages of (I will say successfully) Sagan showing us that there can always be something other than blind belief and taking things at face value and the importance of contemplating them first. The dangers of not thinking and the importance of critical thinking. This book was published in the mid-90s shortly before his passing. He was correct on about the mental state of the world and the dangers of just being superficial in a superficial world. Mostly references and case studies from the pages of time he establishes more than a multitude of reasoning behind the ideas but does not forget to remind the reader that “Hey…I could be wrong about this…but just think about it before jumping to conclusions. Weigh your options, use a little common sense. Then and only then can you make an accurate assumption about said situation.” He does not call us idiots, he only says we act like them most of the time and cause more suffering and grief than is necessary in not only our life but those around us which at times can amount to a mountain of a snowball that takes everyone in its path to a icy grave.
The book is well written and deeply personal. He touches on the aspects of his youth, his family and the ideas that drew him to the stars. The stuff we are all made of.
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JHemlock | 105 other reviews | Mar 20, 2024 |
A long time ago, I read Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot. It is proof that science writing can be Literature. I am so in awe of this masterpiece that I feel the only way to do it justice is to quote the master.
“Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions,
ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every
king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there -- on a
mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely
distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.
Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there
is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.” Since global warming has become the clear and present danger of the day, the former has become ominous indeed.
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nitrolpost | 29 other reviews | Mar 19, 2024 |


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Ann Druyan Introduction, Narrator, Author, Epilogue, Editor, Writer, Screenwriter, Contributor
Jon Lomberg Cover artist, Jacket illustrator
Jerome Agel Producer
Michael Goldenberg Screenwriter
James V. Hart Screenwriter
Don Burgess Cinematographer
Rob Lowe Actor
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Steve Starkey Producer
Steven Soter Screenwriter
Adrian Malone Producer
Donald Kennedy Introduction
E. E. Khachikyan Contributor
B. V. Sukhotin Contributor
Frank D. Drake Contributor
Philip Morrison Contributor
Freeman J. Dyson Contributor
Marvin Minsky Contributor
S. Y. Braude Contributor
J. R. Platt Contributor
R. Pešek Contributor
N. T. Petrovich Contributor
R. G. Podolny Contributor
V. S. Troitsky Contributor
E. M. Debai Contributor
V. V. Kazutinsky Contributor
L. M. Mukhin Contributor
Y. K. Khodarev Contributor
Y. I. Kuznetzov Contributor
B. E. Markarian Contributor
E. S. Markarian Contributor
E. Mirzabekian Contributor
L. M. Ozernoy Contributor
B. I. Panovkin Contributor
Y. N. Pariisky Contributor
V. A. Sanamyan Contributor
V. I. Siforov Contributor
V. I. Slysh Contributor
K. Flannery Contributor
D. Heeschen Contributor
G. Stent Contributor
M.Y. Marov Contributor
Richard B. Lee Contributor
B. M. Oliver Contributor
W.H. McNeill Contributor
B. Burke Contributor
Leslie Orgel Contributor
G. Marx Contributor
G. M. Idlis Contributor
Francis H.C. Crick Contributor
K. Kellermann Contributor
I. S. Shklovsky Contributor
V. L. Ginsberg Contributor
L. V. Mirzoyan Contributor
V. I. Moroz Contributor
Charles Townes Contributor
David Hubel Contributor
L. M. Gindilis Contributor
G. M. Tovmasyan Contributor
Thomas Gold Contributor
N. S. Kardashev Contributor
M.L. Ter-Mikaelian Contributor
S. A. Kaplan Contributor
Robert Aulicino Designer, Jacket designer
Paul Bacon Cover designer
Meike Werner Translator
J. K. Lambert Designer
Andy Carpenter Cover designer
Cary Elwes Narrator
Kinuko Craft Cover artist
David Morrison Contributor
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