Cosmos Essay - Critical Context

Carl Sagan

Critical Context

A Pulitzer Prize winner, Carl Sagan first became one of the world’s leading scientists, science advocates, lecturers, and teachers in the 1950’s. He worked with the Apollo astronauts and was an instrumental participant in the Mariner, Viking, Voyager, and Galileo missions to the planets. His awards include National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) medals for Exceptional Scientific Achievement, the John F. Kennedy Astronautics Award, the Public Welfare Medal (the highest award given by the National Academy of Sciences), and the Joseph Priestley Award, along with many honorary degrees from U.S. colleges and universities. It is with his books, however, that Sagan achieved his most popular acclaim. His works include The Cosmic Connection: An Extraterrestrial Perspective (1973), The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence (1977), Broca’s Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science (1979), Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space (1994), and The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (1995). He was also a writer and producer of the film Contact (1996), based on his 1985 novel of the same name.

Cosmos was conceived and developed simultaneously as both a book and a thirteen-part Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) series aired in 1980. The series won both Emmy and Peabody awards and, now on video, had been seen by an estimated 500 million people in sixty countries by the mid-1990’s. Although they can be studied and enjoyed individually, the book and series can effectively complement each other. The success of such an ambitious project is a testament to Carl Sagan and his Cosmos.