Carl Sagan. The astronomer/scientist/evolutionist who opened my eyes to the expanses of the universe and of time. He died 10 years ago today, and this is one of many blogs joining in to talk about the way he influenced us.
How many evenings we sat, as a family, watching Cosmos on PBS... space itself unfolding through ground-breaking animations to the soothing sounds of Sagan's voice scored by Vangelis' eerie instrumental works. "Billions and billions of stars...." he said, at a time before the number "billions" was really conceivable outside national debts. He stood beside a wall representing the time which had elapsed on Earth since its birth and gestured toward a tiny little line that represented human history in comparisson. Ouch. Humbling.
Of course, I'd seen Star Wars just a couple of years earlier, so my fascination with space was already active, Sagan just gave it a nudge toward the scholarly. A lot of what Cosmos covered was simplified, I later discovered, but at age 10, it was amazing stuff indeed.
I entered my first science fair at age 11, in no small part because of Sagan and the science education I got outside school, and continued to be a science geek right through high school. I still enjoy the popular side of science -- watching shows like Nova or Daily Planet and reading about everyday science. Heck, even shows like Robot Wars and Good Eats owe some of their popularity to geeks like me raised on Sagan and those who followed in his footsteps.