323. Carl Sagan: Visionary Astronomer

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Carl Sagan was possibly the most famous American astronomer ever. He was an astronomer, scientist, author, cosmologist, and television host. His landmark show "Cosmos" was one of the first science shows to gain acceptance by the general public in the United States. Sagan challenged Americans to think about their place in the universe like no other person before him. Using the scientific method, Sagan challenged long-held beliefs about the genesis of life on earth. This he has done to the enlightened scientific community, and to the anger of the religious community. Many of Sagan's teachings contradict the creationist belief of the beginning of life. He was also interested in the search for life beyond the planet earth, and participated in the only human message sent into space intended for an alien race.

Sagan was born in Brooklyn, New York on November 9, 1934. His interest in science began at an early age. He wrote and co-wrote 20 books, and had more than 600 scientific research papers published. His most popular work was "Contact", which tells the story of first contact with an intelligent alien species. The book was made into a movie in 1997 starring Jodie Foster. The book and movie angered many religious groups because of its message that human beings are not alone in the universe.

Sagan earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in physics from the University of Chicago in the 1950s. His scientific curiosity led him into developing the television series "Cosmos". It was one of the most watched science series, and has been recreated and is currently on the air. His work on the Galileo project lives on today. The spacecraft is speeding its way through infinite space today with his message of greeting to whatever race of beings finds it. Sagan died at the age of 62 from complications resulting from pneumonia.

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