Carl Sagan: A Biography

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Overview

Astronomer, planetary scientist, astrophysicist, exobiologist, educator, public figure, skeptic—all these hats represent important parts of Carl Sagan’s complex, multifaceted career. Perhaps best known as the host of the popular television series Cosmos, Sagan offered to the world his extraordinary gift for cross-disciplinary research, his deep well of integrated visions and fruitful ideas, his vivid imagination, and his wealth of nonstop enthusiasm.
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Overview

Astronomer, planetary scientist, astrophysicist, exobiologist, educator, public figure, skeptic—all these hats represent important parts of Carl Sagan’s complex, multifaceted career. Perhaps best known as the host of the popular television series Cosmos, Sagan offered to the world his extraordinary gift for cross-disciplinary research, his deep well of integrated visions and fruitful ideas, his vivid imagination, and his wealth of nonstop enthusiasm.
This concise, lively biography examines Carl Sagan’s steady growth as a man, as a scientist, and as a communicator—a man who had both odd quirks and great charisma, who had an immensely eclectic knowledge base and a unique understanding of the central place of science in the human experience, all of which dovetailed smoothly with his phenomenal ability to communicate.
Separate chapters are devoted to Sagan’s interest in the origin of life, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI), and his work on Cosmos, where he collaborated with Ann Druyan, whom he eventually married and who remained his wife to the end of his life. There are also sections on Sagan’s public advocacy for science and critical stance toward pseudoscience and his role as an activist for the environment and the safe use of atomic power.
This updated, paperback edition of Carl Sagan: A Biography contains many new photos as well as textual additions by Ann Druyan. Veteran science writers Spangenburg and Moser have captured much of the enthusiasm, gift for effective communication, and unflinching honesty that characterized Carl Sagan’s life and career.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Carl Sagan: A Biography comes closer to the Carl I knew than other previous attempts at biography. Authors Moser and Spangenburg capture the drama, passion, and integrity of Carl’s lifelong quest to know the cosmos. May this work kindle that fire in others."
—Ann Druyan, wife of the late Carl Sagan and collaborator on many projects
Children's Literature - Barbara L. Talcroft
Science superstar Carl Sagan (1934—1996) was a controversial figure. Though he earned the requisite degrees in physics and astronomy, he preferred theoretical science to the nitty-gritty of painstaking experiments. Coming on the scene at just the time when space exploration became a real possibility, Sagan, with his good looks, enthusiasm, and personal charisma, was an ideal spokesman for the wonders of the universe and the unlimited possibilities of research. Welcomed as an assistant by several Nobel Prize—winners and as a consultant for NASA, he taught at Harvard until he was refused tenure. Moving to Cornell University, Sagan continued to work with NASA's space missions, wrote books, and starred in the popular television series, Cosmos. His intense public presence inspired jealousies and criticism from academics who felt Sagan spent too much time constructing theories and not enough on solid scientific achievement. (Indeed, his primary interests were investigating possibilities of intelligent life in space and searching for communications from other galaxies, endeavors not easily susceptible to proof.) While not overlooking Sagan's personal quirks, the authors defend him against such charges by stressing his commitment to scientific truth, his creative ideas and visions, his ability to make science (especially space exploration) exciting to the public, and his influence in attracting funding for NASA's programs. As Humphry Davy discovered in the eighteenth century, science needs a charismatic publicist to make its missions possible. Unfortunately, the authors' awkward and repetitious style makes this biography less fascinating than its subject. Reviewer: BarbaraL. Talcroft
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781591026587
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books
  • Publication date: 12/31/2008
  • Pages: 145
  • Sales rank: 1,003,323
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Ray Spangenburg and Kit Moser (Carmichael, CA) are freelance journalists who have coauthored more than fifty books on science, history, and critical thinking.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments 9

Introduction 11

Timeline of Events in the Life of Carl Sagan 13

Ch. 1 From Brooklyn to the Stars: Science Fiction Meets Science 17

Ch. 2 How - and Where - Did Life Begin? 37

Ch. 3 Ascent of a Planetary Scientist 53

Ch. 4 Come In, Universe 71

Ch. 5 Exploring the Planets 89

Ch. 6 Making Cosmic Connections 107

Ch. 7 Cosmos: A Smash Hit for Science 133

Ch. 8 Political Advocacy and Annie's Influence 145

Ch. 9 Final Years 155

Ch. 10 A Bright and Shining Light 165

Selected Bibliography 169

Index 175

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