Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Celebrating Carl Sagan

Carl SaganToday is the tenth anniversary of the death of astronomer and educator, Carl Sagan. All across the globe people, and bloggers, are celebrating his memory. With the impact that this great man had on my life, I would ungrateful if I didn't contribute.

Years ago, when I was just a kid, Dr. Sagan's ground breaking PBS TV series "Cosmos" aired. It was a revelation to me. I had always thought scientists were cool, and I loved looking at the stars and pretending to be an astronaut, but Dr. Sagan brought the wonder of it all home to me in ways I simply can't describe. Science spoke to me as it never had before, and it wasn't the boring set of regurgitated facts my teachers had been shoveling at me. It was full of wonder, adventure, and nobility. It was, as he wrote years later, a candle in the dark for me.

Needless to say I devoured the companion book. The experience prompted me to buy and read more and more books on science in general, and astronomy in particular. My parents noticed this new fire in my soul and bought me a telescope I still use to this day, 26 years later.

This last year I've enjoyed sharing both the show, and book, with my own children. While the science has aged a bit, as all good science will, I can see the glimmer of the spark in their eyes as well - a love of science, a love of learning, and a new-found sense of wonder in the universe around us.

While I can't agree with everything Dr. Sagan ever wrote or said (I believe in God, for example), my respect for him and his work cannot be overstated. Renowned professor and astronomer Yervant Terzian said it best, "[Carl Sagan] was, quite simply, the best science educator in the world this century. He touched hundreds of millions of people and inspired young generations to pursue the sciences."

He certainly touched mine. Thank you, Dr. Sagan. I am in your debt.

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