Carl Edward Sagan was born on November 9, 1934 in Brooklyn, New York. His father, an Ukrainian immigrant, cut fabric in a garment factory and ushered at movie theaters, while Sagan's American-born Austro-Hungaria
n mother raised him and his sister, Cari. His formal education began in New York City public schools, and he decided, while in high school in Rahway, New Jersey, to parlay his childhood fascination with astronomy into a career. At the age of sixteen, he
won a scholarship to the University of Chicago, where he received his first bachelor's degree in liberal arts. Sagan went on to earn a master's degree in physics and a doctorate in astrophysics by the time he was twenty-five. His postdoctoral work in bi
ology at the University of California at Berkeley was followed by stints as assistant professor of genetics at Stanford and astronomy at Harvard and on the staff of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. In 1968, He became a full professor at Cornell
and director of its Laboratory for Planetary Studies, positions he held for the rest of his life. Sagan began making a name for himself in the 1960's with landmark research on the atmospheres of Venus and Saturn's moon and on the windstorms of Mars. Be
coming a consultant to NASA, he eventually played leading roles in the Mariner, Viking, Voyager, and Galileo expeditions, and he was responsible for the interstellar messages affixed to the Pioneer 10 and 11 and Voyager I and II space probes. Sagan wrote
the "Life" entry in the Encyclopaedia Britannica as well as the earliest of his more than 700 articles for publications such as National Geographic. He co-wrote his first book, Intelligent Life in the Universe, in 1966 with Russian
astronomer I. S. Shklovsky. In the 1970's, Sagan became one of science's foremost popularizers and made the first of his twenty-five appearances on "The Tonight Show". He also cultivated an interest in radio astronomy, which would play a large role in <
i>Contact. Sagan, previously divorced from biologist Lynn Margulis and artist Linda Salzman, wed Ann Druyan, a co-worker on the Voyager probe message, in 1978. A year later, he won a Pulitzer Prize for The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evo
lution of Human Intelligence. In 1980, he formed his own production company in order to create "Cosmos", a public television series which garnered him Emmy and Peabody awards. The same year, he and Druyan wrote a treatment called "First Contact" tha
t eventually came to be 1985's Contact. Sagan became an avid opponent of the Reagan administration's Star Wars program, and his protests of nuclear testing led to an arrest in Nevada. He received much criticism for helping to put forth the not-co
mpletely-correct "nuclear winter" theory. In the mid-1990's, while working on the movie version of Contact, Sagan was diagnosed with a bone marrow disorder, myelodysplasia, which necessitated chemotherapy and a marrow transplant from his sister.
He wrote, in 1995, his thirtieth and final book, Pale Blue Dot, for which he won a Grammy for his audiocassette reading. His condition worsened again, and he died of pneumonia at Seattle's Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center on December 21, 199
6. He was buried near his home in Ithaca, New York, at Lakeview Cemetery. He was survived by Druyan, five children, and a grandson. At the time of his death, Sagan chaired sections in the American Astronomical Society, the American Geophysical Union, a
nd the American Association for the Advancement of Science and was a contributing editor of Parade magazine. His many awards included twenty-two honorary degrees from colleges and universities, the Oersted Medal, the Mazursky Award, the National A
cademy of Sciences' Public Welfare Medal, and the NASA medals for Exceptional Scientific Achievement and Distinguished Public Service.