He also had a numerical fascination, and had a hobby of stamp collecting. He was puzzled by the stars, and often went to museums, planetariums and libraries. At age eight, he encountered the concept of extraterrestrial life. He enjoyed reading fiction novels about life on Mars and taught himself the constellations.
During this period of time, he met three influential mentors: Hermann Muller, Harold Urey and Joshua Lederberg.
During the summers of 1952 and 1953, Sagan worked in Muller's lab. His job was to raise and sort fruit flies so that others could perform experiments on them. Muller's research consisted of exposing fruit flies (because of their quick life cycle) to X rays to analyze how radiation caused mutations and, therefore, evolution. His results would eventually make him a Nobel Prize Winner.
In 1952, Muller introduced Sagan to Urey, another Nobel Prize winner who had discovered the element deuterium, or "heavy hydrogen". He also contributed in the Manhattan Project for the first atomic bomb, and became a critic of nuclear weaponry. However, Urey's most influential experiment to Sagan consisted of mixing organic compounds under certain conditions in order to produce proteins. The "Miller-Urey" experiment essentially proved that life could take place on any planet with the right conditions.
The couple moved into a house in Madison.
In 1959, the couple had their first son, who was named Dorion Solomon Sagan.
The family moved to Berkeley when Sagan accepted a job to work with Stanley Miller at the University of California.
A year later, Jeremy Ethan Sagan, the second son of the Sagan family was born.
After some years of troubled marriage, Carl and Lynn got divorced in 1965.
The Greenhouse Effect
The Drake Equation
In the meeting, the group set to determine an equation that would determine the number of communicating extraterrestrial civilizations in our Galaxy.
The equation, developed by Frank Drake, included seven factors:
- The rate of star formation
- The fraction of stars that have planets
- The average number of planets suitable for life in a planetary system
- The fraction of those planets that actually do develop life
- The fraction of those that develop intelligent life
- The fraction of intelligent species that attempt to communicate
- The lifetime of such communicating civilizations
In September 1970, Linda gave birth to Nicholas Julian Zapata Sagan. Nick was very skilled at an early age, and liked Greek mythology and reading comic books.
In August, 1975, Carl, Linda and Nick watched the launch of Viking.
Mars, Mariner and Viking
In 1968, NASA planned a landing mission called Viking, with the goal to search for life. Sagan was in charge of the imagery team and the landing sites, in order to achieve a successful landing, Sagan had Mariners 8 and 9 map the planet.
On 1971, a dust storm in Mars confirmed Sagan's theory which refuted apparent seasonal changes which were really just dust storms.
Viking 1 achieved orbit on June 19, 1976 and landed on July 20. Its life detection experiments led inconclusive and confusing results, and it was concluded that there was no life on Mars.
- a helium bond
- the silhouette of the spacecraft
- a human diagram
- the position of the sun relative to the center of the galaxy
- the planets of the solar system
- the binary code for number 8
"You would have to be made out of wood not to be interested in knowing whether we're alone in the universe."
- Carl Sagan
They fell in love in the following years as they collaborated on a couple of projects including the Voyager. One day, over the phone, they decided they would get married.
In August 22, 1977 Sagan asked Linda for a divorce, but it happened until May, 1981. A month later, Ann and Carl got married.
Sagan became more involved in social activism and spent more time with his family.
Sasha Sagan is born in 1982.
Samuel Sagan is born in 1991.
The result was a record made of copper, a material that would stand the decay of being in space. It included a number of songs of a wide variety of genres, a recording of greetings in multiple languages, natural sounds from Earth and pictures including a diagram of a man and a woman.
The show debuted on September 28, 1980. Sagan became a nation wide TV celebrity as he became the best known scientist of his time.
By January 1981 he had published a Cosmos book, which became the top selling book of any science book in English.
Based on multiple calculations, Sagan and his research team concluded that the smoke and dust of a nuclear war would block the sunlight and dramatically lower the temperature of the planet from 10°C to 25°C. In this "nuclear winter", agriculture would be impossible and would result in mass starvation across the world.
Sagan spread the word and encouraged the Soviet Union and U.S. to stop the production of nuclear test weaponry.
Some even credit Sagan for ending the Cold War.
The nuclear arms race is like two sworn enemies standing waist deep in gasoline, one with three matches, the other with five.
Awards and Achievements
- 18 honorary doctorates
- Pulitzer Prize
- 3 Emmys
- John F. Kennedy Austronautics Award
- NASA Medals for Exceptional Scietific Achievement
- Distinguished Public Service
- Prix Galabert
- Joseph Priestley Award
- Glenn Seaborg Prize
- Leo Szilard Award
- Konstantin Tsiolkovski Medal
- Oersted Medal
- United Nations Environmental Programme Medal
- An asteroid named after him
- Member of the National Academy of Sciences
He died in December 20, 1996.
On a different time period...
If he had lived in an earlier time period, he would not have been so successful because there would be no platform as widely known as the TV to show the discoveries and experiments he had accomplished.
Sagan lived during the Cold War, in which science was focused on the creation of nuclear weapons for war. He would not have even grasped at how dangerous the outcome of a nuclear war would be if he had lived a several decades before.
If I had Carl Sagan's skills...
- Continue space studies
- Space exploration
- Teach others about discoveries and scientific inventions
- Make people realize how precious life on Earth is
- Encourage everyone to do their own part in saving the planet