Science is not very good at promoting their saints. Although we have holidays and annual marketing exercises dedicated to someone who allegedly got nailed up for saying let’s all be nice to each other , ran snakes out of Ireland, or lost his head after a life dedicated to watersports , where is the single national holiday dedicated to science or scientists?
If we were to pick one contributor to science who deserves his own day, it would be Carl Sagan. Some people are (not surprisingly) ahead of me on this. Carl is a hero of mine, because he excelled at “real science” (so many of his early informed speculations about conditions on Mars, Venus, and the moons of the gas giants were proven to be true), at “applied science” (with his contributions to the unmanned exploration of space with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory), and most importantly, at the popularisation of science and scientific thinking. He also wrote great fiction.
He was also a vocal advocate for rational thought. Not a nebbish lab geek or aloof scientific theorist, he was always concerned about the human condition. He warned about the (at the time) poorly understood risks of nuclear war. He was outspoken about the impacts humans were having on the Earth, he was, amongst other things, a vocal, informed, and active environmentalist.
And he lived his life full of wonder. Never satisfied to say “just because” he always asked why, knowing there must be a reason. And always suggested others do the same. He wasthe personification of Douglas Adams’ quote: “I’d take the awe of understanding over the awe of ignorance any day.”
My favourite quote of Carl’s:
“If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe”
–which is just his way of saying all science is Physics.
Put to music here: