Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan
Credit: NASA/JPL

Carl Edward Sagan (1934 - 1996)

Carl was an American astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist, biologist, author, and TV presenter. His interest in astronomy began as a child, only five years old, when he would visit the library to find books about stars. He also loved 1940s science fiction books and magazines, and became fascinated by extraterrestrial life. As a teenager, he would visit museums and science fairs alone, to learn as much as he could about the natural world.

He went to univerity aged 16, to study physics, alongside genetics, chemistry, and biology. He went on to earn a masters degree and a PhD in physics, specialising in 'the physical studies of planets'. In the 1960s, he worked at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, studying the physical conditions of the planets, in particular Venus and Jupiter. He is credited with the discovery of Venus' greenhouse effect, generating the extreme temperatures found on the planet's surface. Working with NASA, Carl was consulted on the locations of the landing sites for various planetary probes.

Whilst in his 30s, Carl began to speak out in the media about UFOs and life beyond Earth. His answers were often taken out of context, and on one occasion he had to testify to the US government about the possibility of life on Venus. In 1968, Carl was a scientific consultant on the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, and has since worked on numerous films, including several of his own work.

In his lifetime, Carl published over 600 scientific papers, and authored (or co-authored) over 20 books. He narrated and co-wrote the award-winning 1980s TV series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, which has become the most widely watched series in the history of American TV.