Carl Sagan with Viking. (photo by Jet Propulsion Laboratory)
Carl Sagan fans old and new have been gazing at their televisions in awe as host Dr. Neil Degrasse Tyson’s resurrection of the science epic Cosmos takes them on a journey from the Big Bang, to microscopic one-celled organisms, to the ascent of man, to beyond the stars and planets. The return of Cosmos – which launched in March and runs for 13 episodes on the Fox network, ending June 2 – provides an opportune time to remember Sagan, the show’s Jewish creator.
An American astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist and author, Sagan was born to into a family of Reform Jews. According to science writer William Poundstone, author of Carl Sagan: A Life in the Cosmos, Sagan’s family celebrated the High Holidays and his parents made sure that he knew Jewish traditions.
“Both of his parents instilled in him this drive to get ahead in America, and that is something he kept all his life,” said Poundstone in an interview. “It may have been one factor in this idea that he not only wanted to be a successful astronomer, but [also] to write books, to become a celebrity and an entrepreneur. His mother particularly instilled that in him.”