Carl Sagan 1934-1996

Yesterday marks the 10-year anniversary of the passing of Carl Sagan.

To commemorate, Joel Schlosberg has a meta-post for the Carl Sagan Memorial Blog-a-Thon with a gigantic list of participating blog posts. [hat tip: Susan]

What I have is not any sort of focused remembrance, rather that his work and way of thinking has been a presence in my life since 1968. The first book of Sagan’s I remember is Intelligent Life in the Universe, which he co-wrote with Russian astronomer I.S. Shklovskii. I was in sixth grade and was in a situation where I accompanied my teacher to a college about 35 miles away where (if I recall correctly) she was taking some sort of continuing education course. The whole rationale for my being there was to get dropped off at the college library to look for reading material. These were the days before ‘gifted and talented’ programs and this was one of the tactics they used with me.

Intelligent Life in the Universe came back with me, checked out on Mrs. Lewis’ library card. This was my first foray into non-Frank Edwards-esque ruminations on the possibility of extraterrestrial intelligences. I was already a science geek at 11 and that book just cemented things. Of course I didn’t grok the math in the book. This particular book is not the point. This was my first encounter with a science book written for grown up scientists. And I liked it. There were National Geographic magazines around the house and my Dad had Scientific American magazines in a stack near his chair, but at that time there were no serious science books in the house. At least that I knew about.

I guess the point is Carl Sagan changed my life by co-writing the first book that made me say, “I want to do science.” Cosmos was a re-acquaintance with an old friend. Someone who became a dear, dear friend, though I never met him.

I still give people copies of his last book, Demon Haunted World and refer folks to Carl Sagan’s Baloney Detection Kit.

Thanks, Carl.