March 4, 2014

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Note: Carl Sagan was Professor of Astronomy and Space Sciences and Director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University. He played a leading role in the Mariner, Viking, and Voyager spacecraft expeditions to the planets, for which he received the NASA medals for Exceptional Scientific Achievement. He received the Pulitzer Prize and the highest awards of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Foundation, and many other awards, for his contributions to science, literature, education, and the preservation of the environment.

Sagan produced and narrated the most popular and comprehensive up-to-date documentary film about the Universe in 1980 for PBS TV that was called COSMOS. It had a companion book also called Cosmos that accompanied the Peabody Award winning TV series. The book had an introduction by Ann Druyan (with a foreword by Neil deGrasse Tyson) and the reprint edition was published by Ballantine Books, 2013 (432 pages). Cosmos was the first science TV blockbuster, and Carl Sagan was its (human) star. By the time of his death in 1996, the series had been seen by half a billion people! According to some biographers, Sagan was perhaps the best-known scientist on the planet.

In helping NASA with U.S. space missions to Venus, Mars, and Jupiter, he made the highly regarded discovery of the high surface temperatures of Venus. He also worked on understanding the atmospheres of Venus and Jupiter and seasonal changes on Mars. Sagan's own interest and enthusiasm for the universe were so vivid and infectious, and his screen presence so engaging, that viewers and readers couldn't help but be caught up in his vision. From stars in their "billions and billions" (his world famous phrase depicted in the Cosmos series) to the amino acids in the primordial ocean, he communicated a feeling for science as a process of discovery.

Sagan's TV cocumentary about the universe, Cosmos, inspired the recent educational 13-part network TV series hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson that included a book and a set of DVDs in 2014. They were both also called COSMOS and contained more than 30 years of new astronomical discoveries placed within the history of science. In addition, Sagan has written many important science books about biology, evolution, astronomy, and the human brain, which should be read and discussed throughout the Humanist Galaxy

The books include the following popular books: [1] THE DEMON-HAUNTED WORLD: Science as a Candle in the Dark reprint edition published by Ballantine Books, 1997 (457 pages); [2] PALE BLUE DOT: a Vision of the Human Future in Space reprint edition published in 1997 (384 pages); and [3] DRAGONS OF EDEN: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence reprint edition published by Ballantine Books, 1986 (288 pages).

Also, Sagan wrote the popular science fiction novel, CONTACT: first published in 1985 and later by Pocket Books in 1997 (448 pages). It is an imaginary tale about the first contact with extraterrestrials in 1999 at the turn of the millenium. The book was made into a popular film.

[Note: Book outlines and reviews will be online soon.]

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Carl Sagan


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