“If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.” Carl Sagan
Carl Edward Sagan, the New Yorker who handed the universe on a plate to millions of people, will forever be one of our great heroes. Here’s why:
1. He was a creative genius who treated science like a mosaic. He handled it with artistry, curating discoveries from across the history and many fields of science. His musings had a poetic flow that effortlessly plaited things together.
2. His playful approach, his lightness of touch, managed to engage millions of people with subjects they would have previously dismissed as either dull or beyond their understanding. He was a great exemplar of how fun can be a pillar of success.
3. The way he could communicate complex ideas in simple, non-patronising terms was phenomenal. His communication style could only be described as visionary; it ignited a sense of wonder and deep awe in the listener. He was an extraordinary teacher. And don’t get us started on his wonderful voice.
“I think I’m able to explain things because understanding wasn’t entirely easy for me. Some things that the most brilliant students were able to see instantly I had to work to understand. I can remember what I had to do to figure it out. The very brilliant ones figure it out so fast they never see the mechanics of understanding.” Carl Sagan
4. A profound undercurrent of beauty ran through all his observations about the universe. This speaks directly to and brings to life the innate ability to appreciate beauty and be fed by it that lies in all of us. After watching his series, Cosmos, the beauty of the world, the universe and our place in it will always speak a little louder to you than it did before.
5. Then, or course, there was his tremendous energy. Carl Sagan’s approach to life was brimming with enthusiasm and verve. Some colleagues even described him as reckless. He shot through his life like a rocket and burned as bright as a supernova. Authoring dozens of books, making the Cosmos television series, dizzying academic achievements, editing, teaching, campaigning, working with Nasa… he really couldn’t have made more of his time here, living on the pale blue dot.
Carl Sagan on the first footage of Earth seen from space:
“That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it, everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you have ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives…Every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every revered teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.”
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