Carl Sagan was an astronomer, astrophysicist, author, science communicator, and popularizer of science and space exploration who was born on November 9, 1934, in Brooklyn, New York City. He dedicated his life to bringing an understanding of the universe to the public and making science and space exploration more accessible.

Early Life 

Carl Sagan was born to Jewish parents, his father being an immigrant worker who worked mostly in New York’s garment district while his mother graduated with a degree in chemistry and was able to find work as a bookkeeper. When Carl was young, his father took him to East Broadway to look at the stars, initially sparking his interest in astronomy.


Growing up, Sagan attended various public schools in New York, eventually earning a Bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Chicago in 1955. He continued first on his Master’s degree in 1956 and eventually moved on to a Doctorate in astronomy and astrophysics in 1960.


After working for a year on the East Coast, Sagan went to work at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts. During this time, he began to make significant contributions to the field of astronomy. In 1965, Sagan accepted a position as a professor of astronomy and space sciences at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, where he would become the David Duncan Professor of Astronomy and Space Sciences. He was appointed as the Director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies and also served as the Center for Radiophysics and Space Research and the Director of the Earth and Planetary Program.


Throughout his career, Sagan worked on a variety of subjects. He was interested in all aspects of astronomy, including the origin of life, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, and the physics of planetary atmospheres. He was especially interested in understanding the development of galaxies and their evolution around the universe. Sagan also focused on the development and theorizing of the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, space probes to comets, and hypothetical forms of extraterrestrial life. He also contended that there may be a possibility of extraterrestrial civilizations that could be discovered through the use of radio waves, which sparked the SETI project.

Popularizing Science and Space Exploration 

Carl Sagan was committed to the popularization of science and space exploration, introducing the knowledge and discoveries of science to the public. He made regular appearances on television and radio, gave numerous lectures to both organized and informal audiences, and wrote multiple books on the topics of science and space exploration.


Sagan was a renowned author and wrote both scholarly and popular works on astronomy and related topics. He was the author of more than 600 scientific papers and popular articles, which resulted in 18 books and a multitude of published book reviews, opinion pieces, and editorials. Examples of his works include Cosmos (1980) and Contact (1985).

Outreach Activities 

Carl Sagan was a frequent guest on the lecture circuit, bringing knowledge of astronomy and space exploration to the public. He was also a professor for 30 years at Cornell University, and the courses he taught focused on the relationship between science and society and the nature of scientific inquiry.

Popular Culture Influence 

Sagan’s legacy and influence is visible in many areas of today’s popular culture. The Sagan’s Nuclear Winter theory, along with his famous quote “we are all made of star-stuff” are both popularly cited as evidence of Sagan’s influence and impact. Sagan was also a major influence in the television series Cosmos (1980), which popularized science and space exploration in the public eye.

Death and Legacy 

On December 20, 1996, Carl Sagan died of pneumonia at the age of 62 in Seattle, Washington. His legacy lives on in the form of numerous awards for the popularization of science and space exploration, a crater on Mercury, and the Carl Sagan Medal.

Awards and Honors 

Sagan was recognized several times for his work, including the Public Welfare Medal from the U.S. National Academy of Science in 1994, the Isaac Asimov award for popular science writing in 1979, the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 1978, and the NASA Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement in 1972.

Carl Sagan was an astronomer, astrophysicist, author, science communicator, and popularizer of science and space exploration who dedicated his life to making science and space exploration more accessible. In addition to his research and discoveries on astronomy, Sagan was also involved in outreach activities and the popularization of science to the public. He received numerous awards and honors for his life’s work, and his legacy continues to live on.