Dec 20 2007

Remembering Sagan

Published by under General
Comments: 4

Carl Sagan, noted astronomer and science popularizer, died 11 years ago today, on December 20th 1996. Beginning last year, on the 10th anniversary of his death, and continuing this year (and hopefully into the future) there is an informal Sagan blog carnival, honoring the memory of the man who meant so much to so many of us.

As I wrote last year, Sagan was a critical early mentor in my personal journey to understanding the nature of science and its role in society. In part, this blog is a manifestation of both the personal effect that Sagan had on my life and also the tradition of promoting the public understanding of science that Sagan so successfully nurtured.

One of the things I admired about Sagan’s style was his ability to step back and look at an issue from a broader, dare I say cosmic, perspective. I remember in an interview he was asked about his religious beliefs. He responded by pointing to a map of the known universe. He said (I am paraphrasing) “See this map, this is the universe. There are hundreds of billions of galaxies in the known universe. See this one galaxy – there are hundreds of billions of stars in this galaxy. On the edge of one of the arms of this galaxy there is an ordinary star. Around that star there are nine planets and on one of those planets there live people who think they are the center of the universe.”

Sagan made it cool to popularize science, to be enthusiastic about science, and his enthusiasm was contagious. I hope the tradition of science for society and for the people that Sagan promoted continues to thrive, and I will continue to do my small part in keeping it alive.

4 responses so far

4 Responses to “Remembering Sagan”

  1. happy humaniston 20 Dec 2007 at 11:39 am

    Carl Sagan gained popularity when I was a teenager. Ever since those “Cosmos” days, I’ve had a crush on him. As you note, Steve, Carl was always patient when he explained something. Ever calm, ever reasonable, he was and is my role-model for teaching.

    I used “Demon-Haunted World” when I taught composition. My desire was to get my students to think about the issues confronting us. All aspects of the issues. And to wade through the logical fallacies using his Toolbox. My students learned to think and analyze, and many changed their minds about things when they researched their topics.

    I owe it to Carl. So, here’s to you, Carl, your memory and all you taught us.

    Thanks, Steve, for the reminder.

  2. DLCon 20 Dec 2007 at 12:37 pm

    Definitely one of the top 5 all-time greats.

  3. cuervoon 20 Dec 2007 at 1:52 pm

    Being British I didn’t have the benefit of growing up with Carl Sagan and Cosmos,but since coming into the whole scepticism malarkey,I have never heard him spoken of without the utmost affection,admiration and sense of indebtedness for this great man who seems truly beloved.I was always thinking “Hang on,who is this guy everyone loves”.Obviously,since reading some of his books I can see why he is so respected,but maybe its difficult to grasp the full gravitas of his cultural impact in the US for me as an ‘outlander’.Nevertheless,I have been genuinely moved by stories about him (for example in Neil Degrasse Tyson’s latest book) and also by his wife talking at Beyond Belief last year.(I didnt know she was his wife at the time,I just thought “wow,who is this amazing woman,speaking so passionately”)OK,im rambling,because I have already popped a cork in honour of the man.
    Cheers Mr S!

  4. […] of Carl Sagan, who died today in 1996, there is somewhat of a blog carnival afoot (thanks to Dr. Novella for pointing this out). Now I’ve not read as much Sagan as I should (I’m workin on it!), […]

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