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SB&F's Throwback Thursday: Carl Sagan's Universe

Cosmos, the iconic television series is back with a new set of episodes featuring Neil de Grasse Tyson. This week we take a look back at a review (published in 1997) of a book that paid tribute to the creator and host of the original series, the great Carl Sagan.


Carl Sagan's Universe, by Yervant Terzian and Elizabeth Bilson, eds.  (Illus.) NY: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

Rating: Highly Recommended

Level: Young Adult, College, General Audiences


To the general public, Carl Sagan was perhaps the most influential scientist of our time. He accurately predicted conditions on Venus and Mars long before Voyager and Hubble. His wonderful teaching about science in general and the possibility of life elsewhere in the cosmos in particular excited an entire generation. One can even argue that he single-handedly started the United States and Russia down the long road toward nuclear disarmament. In 1994, Cornell University hosted a two-day symposium in celebration of his 60th birthday at which luminaries in many areas of Sagan's expertise gave the presentations that constitute this book. The essays are divided into four categories: "Planetary Exploration," "Life in the Cosmos," "Science Education," and "Science, Environment, and Public Policy." Although not all of the contributors share Sagan's gift for communication, many of their compositions are wonderfully written, and all are of some interest. Especially noteworthy are Frank Drake's essay on the significance of the search for extraterrestrial life, James Randi's "Science and Pseudoscience," and Roald Sagdeev's "Highlights of the Russian Planetary Program." Sagan's own essay about exploration is particularly captivating. The book is illustrated with photos of space exploration equipment and of Sagan's professional life. It also has an index and a good bibliography. That this celebration of Sagan's work has become his epitaph because of his untimely death only two years later is all the more reason to own, read, and enjoy Carl Sagan's Universe.—David G. Murray, University of Wisconsin-Rock County, Janesville, WI


Check out our Throwback Thursday Archives for more great classic reviews.