Read Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s 1976 Letter Of Thanks To Carl Sagan

By David Wharton | Updated

This article is more than 2 years old

SaganTysonAstrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is the closest we have to a successor of the late, great Carl Sagan. He’s a passionate, vocal defender of science in general and space exploration in particular. He’s also one of the first people the news networks call when they need a knowledgeable talking head to come sound off on whatever the latest space-related news story happens to be. Sagan and Tyson actually met one another when Tyson applied to Cornell University, where Sagan was teaching, and Tyson has often described Sagan as a mentor. Here’s how Tyson described their first meeting:

Interestingly, when I applied to Cornell, my application dripped of my passion for the study and research of the Universe. Somehow the admissions office brought my application to the attention of the late Dr. Sagan, and he actually took the initiative and care to contact me. He was very inspirational and a most powerful influence. Dr. Sagan was as great as the universe, an effective mentor.

You might recall back in 2012 when we reported on how Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane had helped Sagan’s widow, Ann Druyan, ensure that a large collection of Sagan’s papers and writings found a home in the Library of Congress. One document included in what is now called The Seth MacFarlane Collection of the Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan Archive is the following letter, written by Tyson to thank Sagan for his hospitality during his visit to Cornell, and explaining that he had decided to attend Harvard.


Appropriately enough, Tyson is now following in Sagan’s footsteps in a very specific way, hosting Fox’s new incarnation of Sagan’s TV series Cosmos. The original 13-episode series aired in 1980 and won both an Emmy and a Peabody Award. It has since been seen by some 500 million people, and it still has a special place in the heart of many who went on to pursue careers in science, as well as layman science junkies such as myself. Given how anti-science large portions of our culture have become in recent years, hopefully the new Cosmos will have the same effect on the current generation that the original did on mine back in the day.

The new Cosmos, hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, is set to premiere March 9 on Fox. You can see the latest trailer for the series below, as well as a video where Tyson recalls first meeting Sagan. And hell, we’ll throw Sagan’s beautifully poetic “Pale Blue Dot” in there as well, because it’s one of my favorite things any human has ever said, and I’ll use any excuse at all to repost it.

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