Carl Sagan brought science out from the walls of academia and into a world where we could see it. On Cosmos and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, he inspired thousands upon thousands to wonder at the mysteries of the universe, including the next generation of scientists and engineers. Many – including a number of scientists featured on our series – credit Sagan with inspiring both their work and their desire to leave the lab and share it with the world. And we didn’t even have to ask. Secret Lifer Michelle Thaller told us that in high school, she hung Sagan’s photo in her locker. Bill Nye used his advice to shape the tone and voice of his hit PBS series Bill Nye the Science Guy.
Thanks to Sagan and those who followed in his footsteps, science is now a part of a larger cultural conversation that lives online and on social media, in daily conversation among co-workers, and among comedians on late night talk shows. Thanks to Sagan, scientists come on our little web series and share their lives, their personalities, and their passions – along with their scientific research. Thanks to Sagan, we like to think that at least one kid has a photo of a scientist in his locker (or maybe pinned to her Tumblr page).
As Neil deGrasse Tyson picks up Sagan’s Cosmos torch and Bill Nye takes the media by storm, we’re tipping our hat to the king of science communication. The Youtube channel below is a collection of videos in which our scientists tell us about the influence of Sagan on their lives and their work. Watch the videos. Watch Cosmos. Hang a photo of Neil deGrasse Tyson on your cubicle wall, or share a Bill Nye meme on Facebook. And thank Sagan that today, when somebody calls you a nerd, it’s actually a compliment.