Ten years ago today, famed astronomer and popularizer of science, Carl Sagan, died at the age of 62 of complications related to myelodyplasia. Though I had only the haziest awareness of Sagan's existence while he was alive, I now consider him to be something of a personal hero. More than any other single person, I credit Sagan--and specifically, The Demon-haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, the last book he published before his death--for my love of science and nature. An eloquent writer and brilliant--if often controversial--thinker, Sagan had an infectious enthusiasm and thirst for knowledge that I admire to this day. And I am hardly alone in this admiration; even ten years after his death, his intellectual patrons are legion.
In a post a few months back, I facetiously referred to Sagan as a "prophet." While I don't believe that he was sent from Heaven to fulfill a divine mission, he had a mission nevertheless, and I am grateful for his untiring efforts to increase the collective knowledge and wisdom of humanity. Although he held no naive doubts about our unique penchants for hatred and self-destruction, Sagan was an unfailing believer in humanity's potential for goodness. For this and many other reasons, he will not soon be forgotten.