Carl Sagan

By: Andrew Butterfield and Chase De La Cruz

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"Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known."

General Information

Date of Birth: November 9, 1934 (Age 0)

Place of Birth: Brooklyn, New York

Date of Death: December 20, 1996 (Age 62)

Place of Death: Seattle, Washington

Attended the University of Chicago and received a Bachelor of the Arts in Nothing (1954), a Bachelor of Science in Physics (1955), a Masters of Science in Physics (1956), and finally a PhD in Astronomy and Astrophysics (1960).

He had a sister named Carol, a father named Samuel, and a mother name Rachel. They lived in an apartment in Brooklyn.

From 1962 to 68, Sagan worked at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He lectured and did research at Harvard University during the same period. He moved to Cornell University and became a full time professor by 1971.

Sagan was integral in discovering the surface temperatures of Venus. He contributed the first Mariner missions to Venus by working on the design team of the mission. He was among the first to hypothesize that Saturn's moon Titan and Jupiter's moon Europa contained subsurface oceans of water. He helped people understand the atmospheres of foreign planets, including those of Venus and Jupiter, as well as the seasons on Mars. He recognized the connection between Venus' atmosphere to the phenomenon of Global Warming, which he hypothesized would be a growing problem on Earth in the future. His most recognizable work, however, was his work on the possibility of extraterrestrial life on other planets. He demonstrated production of Amino Acids by exposing basic chemicals to radiation, causing people to think on the possibility of life formed in a similar manner.


Sagan was a self proclaimed agnostic, believing that there probably was a God, but that "the idea that God is an oversized white male with a flowing beard who sits in the sky and tallies the fall of every sparrow is ludicrous." He is often quoted by atheists who argue against religion, even though he himself said that he was not atheist. He claimed that spirituality was an integral part of science, and that the two were quite compatible, but that praying to the laws of Gravity did not make much sense.

Interesting Facts

Sagan was a user and advocate of Marijuana.

Apple code named a computer the "Carl Sagan", but worried that it would be viewed as an endorsement, Sagan sent a cease and desist letter. Apple complied, but changed the code name to "BHA", or "Butt-Head Astronomer".

Sagan was an adviser for the film 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Sagan was a major popularizer of astronomy to the general public, similar to what Neil Degrasse Tyson is doing today.