Carl Sagan was many things – astronomer, astrophysicist, astrobiologist – but it was his efforts as a popularizer of modern science that made him famous. Sagan, among other things, helped discover the high surface temperature of Venus and demonstrated the production of amino acids from common chemicals by radiation (thus proving extraterrestrial life possible). He assembled the physical messages sent into deep space: the Pioneer plaque and Voyager recording. Yet it was his effort to bring the cosmos to civilization which made him a celebrity.
Probably the best-known scientist in the world in the 1970s and 1980s, Carl Edward Sagan was born in Brooklyn in November 1934 AD. A not-so-typical teenager, Sagan graduated from high school at the age of 16, and entered the University of Chicago to study physics in 1955. After completing a PhD in astronomy and astrophysics in four years, Carl landed at the University of California-Berkeley. The early ‘60s found him at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, where his work centered on the physical conditions of planets, notably Venus and Jupiter. In 1968 Sagan became head of Cornell University’s Laboratory for Planetary Studies, and soon worked with NASA to choose landing sites on Mars for the Viking probes.
Now fairly well-known among cosmologists, articulate and energetic, Carl Sagan became a science author for the masses with a series of bestsellers such as 'Cosmic Connection' (1973), 'Other Worlds' (1975), and 'The Dragons of Eden' (1977, Pulitzer Prize winner). He consulted on Hollywood films to ensure “accuracy” – such as for Kubrick’s '2001: A Space Odyssey.' In 1980, he co-founded the Planetary Society. Oh, and he launched the influential TV series 'Cosmos: A Personal Voyage,' which he both wrote and hosted. He died of pneumonia, a complication of his myelodysplasia, at the age of 62.