There was once a time, a long time ago, when scientists communicated their discoveries to a fascinated world through popular books and lectures. Galileo’s Dialogues, after all, was a gripping a good read, even as it helped topple the Church’s domination and open an Age of Discovery. The Universe, Galileo suggested, was a lot grander without an omniscient, omnipotent God.
Now fast forward a few hundred years. Another fellow came along, writing and speaking about remarkably similar stuff. The Universe was big, billions big. And the Age of Discovery continued on, carried forth by a belief in the power of rationality against prejudice, intellect against the ravings of the night. All in books written with a wit and concision, accessible to anybody with the patience to crack a book and relax for a while.
Now, as a young man I followed Carl Sagan’s career, book by book, TV appearance by TV appearance. And when I first found myself at University, I was mystified by the scorn Sagan often received, not just from no-nothings, but from the folks who could best appreciate his message: the scientific community themselves. And it is here I would like to leave it: Carl Sagan was a ground-breaking (or should I say, ground re-breaking) popularizer of science at a time when most of the Academy couldn’t be bothered. And it was his often lonely voice that helped pave the way, that made communicating science with vigor, wit, and panache a respectable enterprise. Here’s to Dr. Sagan.