Carl Sagan Essay, Research Paper
November 9th, 1997, Carl Edward Sagan was born in Brooklyn, NY. He was the son of a Russian immigrant who worked as a theater usher and garment cutter. From an early age, Carl showed an interest in science. His childhood dream was astronomy. The first experience Sagan had with this science was when he began looking at the stars at age five. By age eight, Sagan was determined to visit the planets. His dreams led to a deserving set of degrees. He earned two undergraduate degrees in 1954, his Master?s degree in physics in 1956, and eventually a doctorate in astronomy and astrophysics all at the University of Chicago. Two post-doctorate degrees at the University of California at Berkley followed.
For the final years of Sagan?s life, he was the David Duncan Professor of Astronomy at Cornell University. The position at Cornell superseded years of work at other universities across the country, such as Stanford University and Harvard, where he worked before moving to Cornell in 1968. His most famous work probably lies in Cosmos, a thirteen-part television series later made into a book. This work made scientific ideas comprehensible to many people and showed how science and civilization grew up together. Dr. Sagan was also known for the nuclear-winter theory. The nuclear-winter theory was a result of research with atmospheric scientist Richard Turco that suggested that the effects of nuclear warfare would be more extreme than scientists had once believed. This theory stated that dust and debris created by a nuclear attack would linger in the atmosphere for a very long period of time, which would mean devastating results.
Carl Sagan?s research was not limited to Cosmos and the nuclear-winter theory. Many accomplishments reflected his extraterrestrial interests. In addition to the described work, he also conducted radar studies of the surface of Mars. The radar studies of 1966 performed with James Pollack and Richard M. Goldstein showed that height of ridges on Mars, some as high as ten kilometers. Sagan?s true passion was to find extraterrestrial life, which he researched and included in his books. From 1962 to 1968, he was an astrophysicist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. One last accomplishment was that he helped establish the American Astronomical Society?s division for planetary sciences.
During his life, Dr. Sagan penned a multitude books. As mentioned, his television series, Cosmos, was made into a book not long after it aired on television. Cosmos explores and examines the possibility of alien life, the human brain, the evolution of galaxies, and even the history of science and research. Quoting the book?s first line, Sagan states “The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.” Only one of many books, Sagan wrote more works, such as Contact, which was recently made into a motion picture. Dragons of Eden came out in 1978, and his last book was The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. Some have stated that his last book was his most important, addressing his campaign against pseudosciences, including alien abduction, “channeling” past lives, faith healing, and
witchcraft. Also discussed was importance of science. Sagan remarked that even world leaders, such as former president Bush have gone as far as to glorify having little knowledge of the sciences.
Carl?s work in research and writing produced numerous awards. Throughout his career, he received in excess of twenty honorary degrees from universities. In 1978, Dragons of Eden resulted in a Pulitzer Prize. Sagan received the Public Welfare Medal in 1994. Also, Cosmos won Emmy and Peabody awards.
Dr. Sagan may have received many awards, but his research and work also left a lasting impact on the world. He served as a spokesman of science to people with and without a scientific background. Many scientists wondered what Sagan had that they did not and why he was known throughout the world. The answer was contained in his abilities to explain sciences to everyone as well as his hard work. His life was a constant campaign against pseudoscience and this became clearer in his last book. Sagan had testified before Congress, Presidents, and the Department of Defense on many issues, including his nuclear-winter theory. His work made many benefits to society, but there is still the argument that a disadvantage could be that the nuclear-winter theory was more politics than science. Nonetheless, Sagan meant to leave an impression in both ways.
In 1994, Sagan was diagnosed with myelodysplasia and fought a two -year battle with the rare bone marrow disease. On December 20, 1996, he passed away. His death was due to pulmonary failure as a result of acquired pneumonia.. The entire world sensed the loss. In his honor, a sample of Sagan?s DNA was placed on the Mars Pathfinder in an attempt to fulfill one of his early dreams. Looking back, it can be seen that Sagan did have a very early interest in astronomy. His interests showed in his extensive education as well as many awards and honors for his work. Carl wrote several works offering great scientific explanations to the world. He taught at some of the nation?s top universities until his death and left a lasting impact with his works ? namely the nuclear-winter theory. Though there is the argument whether his theories were more political than scientific, in both ways, Dr. Sagan left an impression on the world.