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How Popular Was Carl Sagan’s Cosmos?

Cosmos: A Personal Voyage was an eighties show aired by the Public Broadcasting Service. Why was it so popular that it had to be remade? Let’s find out more about the Cosmos, and its creator, Carl Sagan.

Hosted by Carl Sagan, Cosmos was the most frequently watched series on public television in the United States. Until today, it continues to be the most widely viewed PBS show worldwide.

Who Was Carl Sagan?

Carl Edward Sagan was born on November 9, 1934, in Brooklyn, New York. He was born to a working-class family. As a child, he was pretty fascinated with the stars. By the age of nine, being an amateur astronomer, he felt life on other planets. When he reached the age of twelve, he told his grandfather that he wanted to be an astronomer.

Sagan went to the University of Chicago in the mid-fifties. He received a bachelor’s degree in Natural Sciences, a master’s degree in Physics, and a doctorate in Astronomy and Astrophysics by 1960. (Source: Notable Biographies)

Sagan held several teaching and research posts with various universities before becoming the director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies of Cornell University in 1970. Sagan also became a consultant for NASA’s crewless space missions to Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.

Sagan became the best-known scientist in the seventies and eighties, dreaming of improving public understanding of the sciences. Sagan published The Cosmic Connection: An Extraterrestrial Perspective which cemented his reputation in 1973. He continued to publish and co-wrote several books, including The Dragons of Eden, which led him to his first Pulitzer Prize.

Sagan reached his height in public fame when he wrote and presented the popular TV series Cosmos. He also wrote a science fiction novel, Contact, which was made into a film in 1997 starring Jodie Foster. Sagan continued his career in science until he passed away on December 20, 1996, due to pneumonia. (Source: Britannica)

The Cosmos TV Series

The thirteen-part Cosmos TV Series was first aired on September 28, 1980, by PBS. More than 600 million people watched the mini-series in more than 60 countries. The show won an Emmy and a Peabody award. (Source: Smithsonian)

The series became popular during this time as it introduced the concept of outer space and possible extraterrestrial existence to the public. The series, along with multiple guestings of Sagan in The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, helped foster the public’s fascination with science and outer space. (Source: Space)

The series was also notable for its pioneering use of special effects, which enabled Sagan to appear to walk through environments created using models rather than full-scale sets. (Source: Cosmo Learning)

The series inspired many people, including Seth McFarlane, the creator of Family Guy. He was known as a science buff and had interests in recreating the Cosmos series. By 2015, McFarlane partnered with Ann Druyan, Sagan’s widow and co-writer of the original series for the project. (Source: The Guardian)

McFarlane also got in touch with Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astronomer who worked with Sagan and Druyan. He was made to be the face and host of the reboot. The Cosmos’ remake was also in time for another Sagan milestone which was that all of his works were now with the Library of Congress.

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