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Carl Sagan was an American astronomer, astrophysicist, author, and researcher, also known as “The Astronomer of the People”. He made crucial contributions to public popularization of astronomy, and he published more than 600 research articles and books on astronomy and sciences.
See the fact file below for more information on the Carl Sagan or alternatively, you can download our 20-page Carl Sagan worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
EARLY LIFE AND EDUCATION
- Carl Sagan was born in 1934 to Samuel Sagan, a garment maker. His mother was a homemaker, Rachel Molly Gruber. His parents took him to New York World’s Fair in 1939 when he was four.
- His parents supported his growing interest in science by giving him books and chemistry sets. He went on to earn three separate science degrees after graduating from Rahway High School in 1951. He attended the University of Chicago, where he received a Bachelor’s Degree and a Master’s Degree in physics in 1955 and 1956, respectively. He also received a doctorate in astronomy and astrophysics in 1960.
CONTRIBUTIONS AND ACHIEVEMENTS
- Sagan was a fellow in astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley, from 1960 to 1962, and he worked at Harvard University and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory from 1962 to 1968.
- In the meantime, while working with NASA’s Mariner 2 unit, he published an article in 1961 on the atmosphere of Venus. He also worked as a “Planetary Sciences Consultant” for the RAND Corporation.
- His early research focused on the physical conditions of the planets, particularly the atmospheres of Venus and Jupiter. He became interested in the possibility of life beyond Earth and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) during that time.
- He also demonstrated that amino acids and nucleic acids could be formed by the application of a mixture of simple ultraviolet chemicals.
- The contributions Sagan made were crucial to the discovery of the planet Venus’ high surface temperatures.
- No one understood for certain the basic conditions of the surface of Venus in the early 1960s, and Sagan described the possibilities in a study that was later portrayed in a book called Planets.
- Sagan’s own opinion was that Venus was dry and very hot in comparison to the balmy paradise that others had imagined. He had studied Venus’ radio waves and found that the surface temperature was 900°F.
- In 1968, he was made the director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University. There, he became a full-time professor in 1971.
- He helped select the Mars landing sites for the Viking missions, and codesigned the Earth messages attached to the Pioneer and Voyager missions launched from the solar system.
- In 1980, Sagan reached the height of his public fame with the television series, Cosmos, which he wrote with his wife, Ann Druyan. It became the most watched show in American public television history.
- At least 500 million people watched the show across 60 different countries.
- After Cosmos, a variety of other books followed, including the science-fiction novel, Contact (1985), which was turned into a popular film in 1997. He also wrote Pale Blue Dot: A View of the Human Future in Space (1994).
- In 1983, Sagan co-wrote a paper that introduced the idea of “nuclear winter”, a catastrophic global cooling resulting from a nuclear war. He was also coauthor of The Cold and the Dark: The World After Nuclear War (1984).
- In 1947, the year inaugurating the craze for the “flying saucer”, the young Sagan believed that the “disks” could be alien spaceships.
- Though quite skeptical of any extraordinary answer to the Unidentified Flying Object (UFO) question, Sagan thought scientists should study the phenomenon.
- Sagan was a member of the Ad Hoc Committee to Review Project Blue Book, the U.S. Plan of UFO investigation by the Air Force. The committee concluded that Blue Book had been missing as a scientific study and preferred a university-based project to provide closer scientific scrutiny of the UFO phenomenon.
- The outcome was the Condon Committee, led by physicist Edward Condon. The final report concluded that UFOs behaved in a manner consistent with a threat to national security.
MARRIED LIFE AND DEATH
- Sagan was married three times. In 1957, he married biologist Lynn Margulis. After they got divorced, he married artist Linda Salzman in 1968. He got divorced again and married author Ann Druyan in 1981.
- On December 20, 1996, Sagan died of pneumonia at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington. He was 62. He suffered from myelodysplasia for two years and received three bone marrow transplants from his sister. His burial was held in Ithaca, New York, at Lake View Cemetery.
Carl Sagan Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the Carl Sagan across 20 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Carl Sagan worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about Carl Sagan who was an American astronomer, astrophysicist, author, and researcher, also known as “The Astronomer of the People”. He made crucial contributions to public popularization of astronomy, and he published more than 600 research articles and books on astronomy and sciences.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Carl Sagan Facts
- Timeline of Success
- Describe Sagan
- Sagan’s Profile
- Jumble Bee
- Famous Books
- Is There Life?
- 3 Truths, 2 Lies
- Contact (1997)
- The Flying Saucer
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