Carl Edward Sagan, Ph.D. (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 book to accompany the program was also published. He also wrote the novel Contact, the basis for the 1997 Robert Zemeckis film of the same name starring Jodie Foster. During his lifetime, Sagan published more than 600 scientific papers and popular articles and was author, co-author, or editor of more than 20 books. In his works, he frequently advocated skeptical inquiry, secular humanism, and the scientific method.
Carl Sagan was born in Brooklyn, New York to a Russian Jewish family. His father, Sam Sagan, was a Russian immigrant garment worker; his mother, Rachel Molly Gruber, was a housewife. Carl was named in honor of Rachel's biological mother, Chaiya Clara, "the mother she never knew", in Sagan's words. Sagan graduated from Rahway High School in Rahway, New Jersey in 1951. He attended the University of Chicago, where he participated in the Ryerson Astronomical Society, received an A.B. with general and special honors (1954), an S.B. (1955) and an S.M. (1956) in physics, before earning a Ph.D. degree (1960) in astronomy and astrophysics. During his time as an undergraduate, Sagan spent some time working in the laboratory of the geneticist H. J. Muller. From 1960 to 1962 he was a Miller Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley. From 1962 to 1968, he worked at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts.