Carl Sagan, Professor of Astronomy and Space Sciences at Cornell University and past AGU Planetology Section president, died of pneumonia on December 20, 1996, following a two-year battle with the bone-marrow disease, myelodysplasia. Sagan, a planetary scientist of the first rank, was also well known for his exceptional skills in bringing science to policymakers and the public.
Following a broad undergraduate education with a degree in humanities and physics from the University of Chicago, Carl received his Ph.D. in astronomy and astrophysics from that institution in 1960. He quickly established himself as a pioneer in the investigation of the prospect for extraterrestrial life. His wide background in a variety of sciences, including a position as Visiting Assistant Professor of Genetics at the Stanford University School of Medicine, prepared him well for this new, interdisciplinary field. (Carl's first scientific publication, in 1957, had been “Radiation and the origin of the gene,” in the journal Evolution.) In 1968, Carl came to Cornell University as director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies, heading a research group that combined spacecraft and theoretical expertise with laboratory investigations of solar system and interstellar organic chemistry.