Carl Edward Sagan (November 9, 1934 – December 20, 1996) was an American astronomer, astrochemist, author, and highly successful popularizer of astronomy, astrophysics and other natural sciences. He pioneered exobiology and promoted the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI). He is world-famous for writing popular science books and for co-writing and presenting the award-winning 1980 television series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, which has been seen by more than 600 million people in over 60 countries, making it the most widely watched PBS program in history.
A few of his more famous quotes:
Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.
Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.
If we long for our planet to be important, there is something we can do about it. We make our world significant by the courage of our questions and by the depth of our answers.
Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people.
We are made of star stuff. For the most part, atoms heavier than hydrogen were created in the interiors of stars and then expelled into space to be incorporated into later stars. The Sun is probably a third generation star.
We are star stuff which has taken its destiny into its own hands. The loom of time and space works the most astonishing transformations of matter.
The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be. Our feeblest contemplations of the Cosmos stir us — there is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation, as if a distant memory, of falling from a height. We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries.
For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.
The vast distances that separate the stars are providential. Beings and worlds are quarantined from one another. The quarantine is lifted only for those with sufficient self-knowledge and judgement to have safely traveled from star to star.
The universe is not required to be in perfect harmony with human ambition.
We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.
Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.
Our species needs, and deserves, a citizenry with minds wide awake and a basic understanding of how the world works.
I am often amazed at how much more capability and enthusiasm for science there is among elementary school youngsters than among college students.
For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.
But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.
All of the books in the world contain no more information than is broadcast as video in a single large American city in a single year. Not all bits have equal value.
I can find in my undergraduate classes, bright students who do not know that the stars rise and set at night, or even that the Sun is a star.
We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.
We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it's forever. (And now we know he lifted that from The Doctor!)