Carl Sagan

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Carl Sagan is known as one of the most famous scientists of all time. He revolutionized how the world looked at space and the search for intelligent life beyond our planet. The author of many books, he is most known for Contact (which was adapted into a movie) and for the PBS documentary Cosmos. As one of America's most famous astronomers and science-fiction writers, Carl Sagan turned a life of science into one of the most critically successful scientific careers of the 20th century.

As a child, Sagan avidly read science-fiction novels from authors such as H.G. Wells and Edgar Rice Burroughs. Sagan "used to scour the entire library looking for anything that had to do with science, he was addicted to the subject at an early age" (Byman 5). This penchant for the sciences helped Sagan to excel at math and science in school, which eventually led him to major in astronomy in college.

Sagan's first experiences with writing came at the University of Chicago, where he received both his master's and his doctorate's degrees. These first encounters came in the form of scientific writings for professional journals, such as Icarus. His first scientific paper (which would later be reproduced in a Time-Life book, Planets) dealt with the theory that the surface of the planet Venus was very hot and dry, something that was not known to scientists at that time. Sagan began to gain recognition in his field and eventually became a full professor at Cornell, where he continued to publish many more scientific papers.

Sagan's first published novel was 1973's The Cosmic Connection, which dealt with the theories of extraterrestrial life outside of our solar system. "The Cosmic Connection sold well because Carl knew how to write about science with poetry and passion" (Cohen 47). Sagan then spent the next several years working on the Voyager space probes and Apollo missions that eventually led to his famous appearances on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. He soon became a household name with his television appearances and repeated catchphrases, such as "billions and billions."

Adding to his popularity, Sagan wrote The Dragons of Eden in 1977, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize. That same year, Sagan's popularity reached an all-time high. He narrated co-wrote and co-produced the highly popular thirteen part PBS television series: Cosmos: Personal Voyage, which was modeled on Jacob Bronowski's The Ascent of Man.
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