The Library of Congress has acquired the personal papers of American astronomer, astrobiologist and science communicator Carl Sagan (1934-1996). A celebrated scientist, educator, television personality and prolific author, Sagan was a consummate communicator who bridged the gap between academe and popular culture.
The Sagan collection has come to the Library through the generosity of writer, producer and director Seth MacFarlane, and is officially designated The Seth MacFarlane Collection of the Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan Archive.
The collection comprises approximately 800 boxes of materials that document Sagan’s life and work and includes his extensive correspondence with scientific colleagues and other important figures of the 20th century. It also includes book drafts, publications files, “idea files” on various subjects, records of various symposia, NASA files and academic files covering the years he taught at Cornell University. Among the personal files are his birth announcement, handwritten notebooks of his earliest thoughts and grammar-school report cards. In addition to manuscript materials, the collection includes photographs, audiotapes and videocassettes. Researchers and scholars will be able to use the collection once it has been fully processed by the Library’s archivists.
“We are honored to preserve and make accessible to researchers the legacy of Carl Sagan, a man who devoted his life to the study of the universe,” said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. “The Sagan papers are a rich addition to the Library’s already-outstanding collection of science manuscripts and other materials from such prominent figures as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Sigmund Freud, J. Robert Oppenheimer and E.O. Wilson.”
“Carl was the exemplar of the citizen scientist,” said Druyan, Sagan’s long time professional collaborator and his widow. “For him, the values of democracy and science were intertwined. I can think of no more fitting home for his papers than the nation’s library. Thanks to Seth, Carl’s prodigious life’s work will endure to awaken future generations to the wonders of the scientific perspective.”
Sagan and Druyan co-wrote several books, and the “Cosmos” television series and were co-creators of the motion picture, “Contact.” Druyan was the creative director of NASA’s Voyager Interstellar Record Project (http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/spacecraft/goldenrec.html).
“The work of Carl Sagan has been a profound influence in my life, and the life of every individual who recognizes the importance of humanity’s ongoing commitment to the exploration of our universe,” said MacFarlane. “The continuance of our journey outward into space should always occupy some part of our collective attention, regardless of whatever Snooki did last week.”
MacFarlane is the creative force behind the television shows “Family Guy,” “American Dad!” and “The Cleveland Show.” “Family Guy” has garnered four Emmys and seven Emmy nominations, including one in the Outstanding Comedy Series category. MacFarlane makes his directorial feature film debut on June 29, 2012, with the live-action and computer-generated comedy, “Ted.” His orchestral/big band album, “Music Is Better Than Words,” debuted at number one on the iTunes Jazz charts on Sept 27, 2011, and received two Grammy nominations, including Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album.
MacFarlane has teamed up with Sagan’s original creative collaborators—writer/producer Ann Druyan and astrophysicist Steven Soter—to conceive a 13-part “docu-series” that will serve as a successor to the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning original series, “Cosmos.” Produced in conjunction with FOX and the National Geographic Channel, “Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey” will explore how human beings began to comprehend the laws of nature and find their place in space and time. By exploring never-before-told stories of the heroic quest for knowledge, the series aims to take viewers to other worlds and travel across the universe for a vision of the cosmos on the grandest scale.
Carl Sagan earned a Pulitzer Prize for his bestseller, “The Dragons of Eden: Speculation on the Evolution of Human Intelligence.” His science-fiction novel, “Contact,” became both a bestseller and a feature film. It is estimated that more than a billion people around the world have viewed his popular PBS show, “Cosmos.”
Sagan specialized in planetary astronomy. His early work on planetary surfaces and atmospheres is considered pioneering, and he made landmark contributions to NASA’s Mariner, Pioneer, Apollo, Galileo, Viking and Voyager space-exploration programs. For his unique contributions, he was awarded medals for Distinguished Scientific Achievement and Public Service from NASA, the National Science Foundation and the National Academy of Sciences.
A staunch advocate of the scientific method, Sagan was known for his research on the possibilities of extraterrestrial life, for his research and campaigns of public education on the dangers of global warming and the “nuclear winter” that could result from a nuclear war.
To examine Sagan’s legacy as a role model for future American scientists, the Library of Congress will sponsor a “Summit on Science Education” late next year. The event, which will bring together scientists, educators, policy-makers and students, will underscore Sagan’s conviction that it is critical to understand and appreciate the centrality of science in the everyday lives of Americans and to create a renewed national consciousness about preparing the next generation of scientists.
The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world, holds more than 151 million items in various languages, disciplines, and formats. The Library seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs, publications and exhibitions. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at www.loc.gov.
We don’t know how many possible applications and connections Sagan’s work will have over time.
But we’re betting the number is “billions and billions”.
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