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Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan was an American astronomer, exobiology pioneer, astrophysicist, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence. He also wrote the novel Contact, which was adapted into the 1997 Robert Zemeckis film of the same name, starring Jodie Foster. Other books include Cosmos (1980) (the companion to his popular TV series), The Cosmic Connection: An Extraterrestrial Perspective (1973), Other Worlds (1975), Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space (1994), and Billions and Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the End of the Millennium (1997).

Biographical fast facts

Full or original name at birth: Carl Edward Sagan

Date, time, and place of birth: November 9, 1934, at 5:05 p.m., Brooklyn, New York, U.S.A.

Date, place and cause of death: December 20, 1996, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, Washington, U.S.A. (Pneumonia/Myelodysplasia)

Note: Myelodysplasia in a bone marrow cancer.

Marriage #1
Wife: Lynn Alexander (m. June 16, 1957 - 1963/1964) (divorced)
(mother of Dorion Sagan and Jeremy Sagan)

Marriage #2
Wife: Linda Salzman (m. April 6, 1968 - 1978) (divorced) (mother of Nick Sagan)
Wedding took place at the MIT Chapel, Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.A.

Marriage #3
Wife: Ann Druyan (m. June 1, 1981 - December 20, 1996) (his death) (mother of Alexandra and Sam Sagan)
Wedding took place at the Hotel Bel-Air, 701 Stone Canyon Road, Bel Air, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.

Sons: Dorion Solomon Sagan (b. 1959)
Jeremy Ethan Sagan (b. October 1960)
Nick Sagan (b. Nicholas Julian Zapata Sagan, September 16, 1970)
Samuel Democritus Druyan Sagan (b. 1991)

Daughter: Sasha Sagan (b. Alexandra Rachel Druyan Sagan, November 1982)

Father: Samuel Sagan (a garment worker/factory manager) (b. March 2, 1905, Kamenets-Podolsk, Ukraine - d. October 7, 1979, Los Angeles, California)
Mother: Rachel Molly (Gruber) Sagan (a homemaker) (b. November 23, 1907, New York City, New York - d. February 1982, Beth Israel Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts)

Burial site: Lakeview Cemetery, Ithaca, New York, U.S.A.


Professor Carl Sagan often speculated about the possibility of extraterrestrial life in the universe and actually co-founded the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI), which searches for signals from intelligent extraterrestrials. He helped stimulate popular interest in astronomy, physics, and exobiology, the study of extraterrestrial life, via his scientific papers, articles, books, TV appearances and his popular lectures. He was co-founder and President (1979-96) of The Planetary Society, the largest space-interest group in the world.

He hosted and helped write the landmark PBS series Cosmos. Even before the popular show launched in 1980, he was one of the most widely known and outspoken scientists in America and a familiar face to many, thanks to his many television talk show appearances.

Dr. Sagan played a leading role in many U.S. spacecraft expeditions to other planets. He was an adviser to NASA on the Mariner, Voyager and Viking unmanned space missions. Carl consulted on NASA's Galileo and Pioneer missions as well, but was most heavily involved in NASA space missions to Mars and Jupiter. It was as a member of the scientific team that sent the Voyager spacecrafts to the outer solar system that Dr. Carl Sagan conceived and helped design informational messages placed aboard the spacecraft, on the chance that extraterrestrial beings might come upon them in the future.

Sagan was assistant professor of astronomy, Harvard University (1962-68), associate professor of astronomy, Cornell University (1968-70), professor of astronomy and space sciences, Cornell University (1971-96), director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University (1968-96), Distinguished Visiting Scientist, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology (1986-96).


The most in-depth of more than three dozen sources consulted in preparing this profile, was the 1999 biography, Carl Sagan: A Life in the Cosmos, by William Poundstone.

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