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Life cycle of a star: Carl Sagan and the circulation of reputation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 April 2019

UCL, Department of Science and Technology Studies, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT, UK. Email:


It is a commonplace in the history of science that reputations of scientists play important roles in the stories of scientific knowledge. I argue that to fully understand these roles we should see reputations as produced by communicative acts, consider how reputations become known about, and study the factors influencing such processes. I reapply James Secord's ‘knowledge-in-transit’ approach; in addition to scientific knowledge, I also examine how ‘biographical knowledge’ of individuals is constructed through communications and shaped by communicative contexts. My case study is Carl Sagan, widely discussed – amongst scientists, media professionals and publics – for his skill as a charismatic popularizer, his perceived arrogance, his political activism, and his debated merit as a researcher. By examining how aspects of Sagan's reputation circulated alongside his scientific work – rather than existing as a static context for his scientific work – I show how different forms of knowledge (biographical and scientific) influence each other as they circulate.

Research Article
Copyright © British Society for the History of Science 2019 

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I am grateful to Helen Curry for her extensive support on this project, as well as Karoliina Pulkkinen, Trudi Martin, Matthew Paskins, Declan Fahy and many others within the Cambridge History and Philosophy of Science and UCL Science and Technology Studies departments for their input. I also thank the reviewers for their comments, which contributed a great deal to this paper.


1 Art Harris, ‘Second view: Sagan on encounters’, Washington Post Weekend, 16 December 1977, pp. 1–2, 1.

2 The term ‘Sagan effect’ originated in Hartz, Jim and Chappell, Rick, Worlds Apart: How the Distance between Science and Journalism Threatens America's Future, Nashville: Freedom Forum First Amendment Center, 1997Google Scholar. For more on the Sagan effect see Shermer, Michael B., ‘This view of science: Stephen Jay Gould as historian of science and scientific historian, popular scientist and scientific popularizer’, Social Studies of Science (2002) 32(4), pp. 489524Google Scholar. See also Fahy, Declan, The New Celebrity Scientists: Out of the Lab and into the Limelight, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2015Google Scholar.

3 In ‘texts’ I include audio and visual recordings.

4 Chargaff, Erwin, ‘A quick climb up Mount Olympus’, Science, new series (1968) 159, pp. 14481449CrossRefGoogle Scholar, 1448.

5 For some canonical examples see Collins, Harry, Changing Order: Replication and Induction in Scientific Practice, London: Sage, 1985, esp. pp. 8489Google Scholar; and Latour, Bruno and Woolgar, Steve, Laboratory Life: The Construction of Scientific Facts, 2nd edn, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986, especially pp. 194206Google Scholar.

6 For discussions of Sagan in science studies beyond the examples here see McQuaid, Kim, ‘Selling the space age: NASA and Earth's environment, 1958–1990’, Environment and History (2006) 12(2), pp. 127163CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Strick, James E., ‘Creating a cosmic discipline: the crystallization and consolidation of exobiology, 1957–1973’, Journal of the History of Biology (2004) 37(1), pp. 131180CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

7 LaFollette, Marcel C., Science on American Television, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2013, pp. 156159Google Scholar.

8 Badash, Lawrence, A Nuclear Winter's Tale: Science and Politics in the 1980s, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2009CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Oreskes, Naomi and Conway, Erik, Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming, New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2010, pp. 4865Google Scholar; Dörries, Matthias, ‘The politics of atmospheric sciences: ‘nuclear winter’ and global climate change’, Osiris (2011) 26(1), pp. 198223CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

9 Goodell, Rae, The Visible Scientists, Boston, MA: Little, Brown, 1975Google Scholar; for Sagan see 163–176; for ‘visibility’ analysis see 6–10, 201–207.

10 This is not to imply that these are mutually exclusive – see, for example, Söderqvist, Thomas (ed.), The History and Poetics of Scientific Biography, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007Google Scholar; and Daston, Lorraine and Sibum, Otto, ‘Introduction: scientific personae and their histories’, Science in Context (2003) 16(12), pp. 18CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Biographies of Sagan are Poundstone, William, Carl Sagan: A Life in the Cosmos, New York: Henry Holt, 1999Google Scholar; and Davidson, Keay, Carl Sagan: A Life, New York: John Wiley, 1999Google Scholar. An excellent review is Robert Hotz, ‘Star trek’, Los Angeles Times, 16 January 2000, p. 4. There is a third aimed at children – Spangenburg, Ray and Moser, Kit, Carl Sagan: A Biography, Westport, CT: Greenwood Biographies, 2004Google Scholar – but this draws most of its material from the other two biographies.

11 Secord, James A., ‘Knowledge in transit’, Isis (2004) 95(4), pp. 654672CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed.

12 Secord, op. cit. (11), p. 661.

13 Secord, op. cit. (11), pp. 657–670.

14 For celebrity scientists see Goodell, op. cit. (9); and Fahy, op. cit. (2). For the role of mass media see LaFollette, op. cit. (7); and Dorothy Nelkin, Selling Science: How the Press Covers Science and Technology, London: W.H. Freeman and Company. The development of the ‘science communicator’ persona pre-dates the twentieth century; see, for example, Huxley, in Desmond, Adrian, Huxley: From Devil's Disciple to Evolution's High Priest, Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1999Google Scholar; and Thomas Gieryn's discussion of Tyndall, John in Cultural Boundaries of Science: Credibility on the Line, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1999Google Scholar.

15 Treating ‘knowledge’ in a sociological sense, i.e. distinguished from ‘belief’ or ‘opinion’ by being collectively endorsed as the truth.

16 Gerald Soffen quoted in Thomas, Shirley, Men of Space: Profiles of the Leaders in Space Research, Development, and Exploration, Philadelphia: Chilton Company Book Division, 1963Google Scholar, vol. 6, p. 193.

17 Exobiologists study the possibilities for biological life elsewhere in our solar system.

18 Doel, Ronald E., Solar System Astronomy in America: Communities, Patronage and Interdisciplinary Science, 1920–1960, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996Google Scholar; Dick, Stephen and Strick, James, The Living Universe: NASA and the Development of Astrobiology, New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2004Google Scholar.

19 Poundstone, op. cit. (10), p. 39.

20 Dick and Strick, op. cit. (18), pp. 47–48. Margulis was also Sagan's first wife.

21 Poundstone, op. cit. (10), p. 33.

22 Both were briefly at the University of Colorado in 1957; they shared an interest in exobiology, but Lederberg knew little astronomy. The twenty-three-year-old Sagan ended up tutoring him – see Poundstone, op. cit. (10), pp. 36–39.

23 Drake, Frank and Sobel, Dava, Is Anyone Out There? The Scientific Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, New York and London: Pocket Books, 1994, pp. 4647Google Scholar. Drake knew of Sagan from correspondence over Drake's microwave observations of Venus. Davidson, op. cit. (10), pp. 88–90.

24 Poundstone, op. cit. (10), p. 39.

25 Drake and Sobel, op. cit. (23), p. 52. On general problems of interdisciplinarity in planetary science in this period see Doel, op. cit. (18), pp. 138–150.

26 Thomas, op. cit. (16), pp. 192 (Kuiper and Shneour), 203 (Kellogg).

27 Thomas, op. cit. (16); Drake and Sobel, op. cit. (23), pp. 54–55.

28 Dick and Strick, op. cit. (18), p. 3.

29 Woolfe, Audra, ‘Germs in space: Joshua Lederberg, exobiology, and the public imagination, 1958–1964’, Isis (2002) 93, pp. 183205CrossRefGoogle Scholar. On Hoyle see Gregory, Jane, ‘The popularization and excommunication of Fred Hoyle's “life-from-space” theory’, Public Understanding of Science (2003) 12(1), pp. 2546CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

30 Dick and Strick, op. cit. (18).

31 Woolfe, op. cit. (29).

32 Fred Murphy, cited in Davidson, op. cit. (10), p. 149.

33 Davidson, op. cit. (10), p. 150.

34 Davidson, op. cit. (10), p. 148.

35 Shklovskii, Iosif, Five Billion Vodka Bottles to the Moon: Tales of a Soviet Scientist (tr. Zirin, Mary Fleming and Zirin, Harold), New York and London: W.W. Norton, 1991Google Scholar, p. 251; Poundstone, op. cit. (10), pp. 77–78.

36 Shklovskii, op. cit. (35), p. 252, recalls one addition in which Sagan responded to a mention of dialectical materialism by bringing up the positivistic philosophy of Kant.

37 Woolfe, op. cit. (29). For collaboration with Shklovskii see Davidson, op. cit. (10), pp. 147–151. For Shklovskii's relationship with the Soviet Union see Poundstone, op. cit. (10), pp. 77–79.

38 Davidson, op. cit. (10), p. 198.

39 Davidson, op. cit. (10), p.198.

40 Davidson, op. cit. (10), p. 205. Sagan had first been recommended for a role as associate editor in 1962 by Kuiper and his thesis examiner Joseph Chamberlain.

41 Davidson, op. cit. (10), pp. 205–206; Poundstone, op. cit. (10), p. 116.

42 Davidson, op. cit. (10), pp. 389–390; Poundstone, op. cit. (10), p. 265.

43 Davidson, op. cit. (10), pp. 276–279.

44 Davidson, op. cit. (10), pp. 276–279.

45 McCurdy, Howard, Space and the American Imagination, New York and London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1997, pp. 5456Google Scholar, 77.

46 Sagan quoted in Goodell, op. cit. (9), p. 173.

47 Davidson, op. cit. (10), pp. 388–392; Shermer, Michael B., ‘The measure of a life: Carl Sagan and the science of biography’, Skeptic (1999) 7(4), pp. 3239Google Scholar.

48 Davidson, op. cit. (10), pp. 389–392.

49 Shermer, op. cit. (2); Joel Achenbach, ‘The final frontier’, Washington Post, 30 May 1996, p. C1.

50 See Goodell, op. cit. (9); Fahy, op. cit. (2).

51 Gregory, op. cit. (29).

52 Dick and Strick, op. cit. (18).

53 Goodell, op. cit. (9), pp. 169–174.

54 Sagan, Carl, Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence, New York: Random House, 1997Google Scholar.

55 Poundstone, op. cit. (10), pp. 116–117, 194–195, describes perceptions of his work, including a collaboration with Edwin E. Saltpeter which examined the possibility of balloon-like life on Jupiter (later used by science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke in his story ‘A meeting with Medusa’).

56 Henry S.F. Cooper, ‘A resonance with something alive’, New Yorker, 21 June 1976, p. 39.

57 Klopfer, P.H., ‘The Dragons of Eden: speculations on the evolution of human intelligence’, Quarterly Review of Biology (1978 ) 53(4), p. 495CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Maya Pines, ‘Matters of the mind, The Dragons of Eden: speculations on the evolution of human intelligence’, Washington Post, 29 May 1977, p. 119.

58 George Gaylord Simpson quoted in Dick and Strick, op. cit. (18), p. 18.

59 See, for example, Narlikar, Jayant, ‘Fred Hoyle's universe’, Resonance (2010) 15(10), pp. 875904CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Mitten, Simon, ‘Fred Hoyle's biggest bang’, The Lancet (2001) 358(9284), pp. 780–780CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Gregory, op. cit. (29).

60 Sagan, Dorion, ‘Truth of my father’, in Margulis, Lynn and Sagan, Dorion, Dazzle Gradually: Reflections on the Nature of Nature, White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2007, pp. 815Google Scholar, 8.

61 Goodell, op. cit. (9), p. 163; see also 162–174. For more on multimedia see Fahy, op. cit. (2); LaFollette, op. cit. (7); Nelkin, op. cit. (14).

62 Star, Susan Leigh and Griesemer, James R., ‘Institutional ecology, translations, and boundary objects: amateurs and professionals in Berkeley's Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, 1907–39’, Social Studies of Science (1989) 19(3), pp. 387420CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Latour, Bruno, ‘Drawing things together’, in Lynch, Michael and Woolgar, Steve (eds.), Representation in Scientific Practice, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1990 pp. 1968Google Scholar. For another study of the scientist's presence as an object see Mialet, Hélène, Hawking Incorporated: Stephen Hawking and the Anthropology of the Knowing Subject, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2010Google Scholar.

63 Macauley, William, ‘Inscribing scientific knowledge: interstellar communication, NASA's Pioneer plaque, and contact with cultures of the imagination 1971–1972’, in Geppert, Alexander C.T. (ed.), Imagining Outer Space: European Astroculture in the Twentieth Century, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012, pp. 286309Google Scholar.

64 Edward Edelson, ‘Star struck: the cosmic connection, an extraterrestrial perspective’, Washington Post, 25 November 1973, p. BW4; see also Cooper, op. cit. (56); Samuel Mines, ‘Spies in the sky? UFOs: a scientific debate edited by Carl Sagan and Thornton Page’, Washington Post, 28 January 1973, p. BW6; Pines, op. cit. (57).

65 Goodell, op. cit. (9), pp. 29–35; LaFollette, Marcel C., Making Science Our Own: Public Images of Science, 1910–1955, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1990Google Scholar.

66 Timothy Ferris, ‘A conversation with Carl Sagan’, Rolling Stone, 7 June 1973, pp. 26–30; for the Tonight show see Boyce Rensberger, ‘Carl Sagan: obliged to explain’, New York Times, 29 May 1977, p. 8; and Poundstone, op. cit. (10), p. 177.

67 For counterculturalism see Ferris, op. cit. (66); and Poundstone, op. cit. (10), pp. 174–176; for appearance see Goodell, op. cit. (9), pp. 163–166; and Pines, op. cit. (57); for connections to film directors see Harris, op. cit. (1); and Cooper, op. cit. (56); for the Voyager music see Drake and Sobel, op. cit. (23), pp. 184–190; and Poundstone, op. cit. (10), pp. 303, 345. How much of this was deliberate on Sagan's part is a fraught question, though Poundstone, op. cit. (10), pp. 175–177, suggests that the title of his book The Cosmic Connection was a conscious move to increase his countercultural appeal – and to sell more copies amongst Rolling Stone readers.

68 Gieryn, op. cit. (14).

69 Poundstone, op. cit. (10), pp. 104, 173–175; Cooper, op. cit. (56), p. 27.

70 Sagan, op. cit. (60), p. 8; Berendzen quoted in Poundstone, op. cit. (10), p. 72. These recollections may, of course, not be entirely reliable; nevertheless, reading transcripts of Sagan's interviews, it is notable how prose-like they are – see Head, Tom, Conversations with Carl Sagan, Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2006Google Scholar.

71 Poundstone, op. cit. (10), pp. 178, 263; Davidson, op. cit. (10), pp. 332–333.

72 Harris, op. cit. (1), p. 47; Cooper, op. cit. (56), pp. 20–22; Goodell, op. cit. (9), pp. 163–164. Poundstone, op. cit. (10), p. 261, relates a story of a New Orleans astronomical society that took to wearing turtleneck sweaters in honour of Sagan.

73 Schaffer, Simon, ‘Mutability, mobility and meteorites: on some material cultures of the sciences’, STS Occasional Papers, 2014, UCL Department of Science and Technology StudiesGoogle Scholar.

74 For background see LaFollette, op. cit. (7), pp. 156–159.

75 Davidson, op. cit. (10), pp. 329–330; Poundstone, op. cit. (10), pp. 257–260.

76 The famous ‘cosmic calendar’ in the opening episode first appeared in Sagan's Dragons of Eden (op. cit. (54)), while the much-cited ‘star-stuff’ and reference to material from space as ‘manna’ both appeared in Sagan, Carl, The Cosmic Connection, New York: Anchor Press, 1973Google Scholar.

77 Poundstone, op. cit. (10), p. 177.

78 This phenomenon is given a fascinating slant in Mialet, op. cit. (62). Motives behind continuing the ‘glamor-boy of astronomy’ image varied between parties – Sagan and collaborator Gentry Lee wanted to promote flagging public interest in planetary exploration (McCurdy, op. cit. 45, pp. 58, 78); director Adrian Malone wished to ‘make a star out of Sagan’ as he had done with Jacob Bronowski (Shirley Arden in Spangenburg and Moser, op. cit. (10), p. 95); KCET saw Sagan's image as good for marketing (see Poundstone, op. cit. (10), pp. 256–257); for the purported role of Sagan's ego see Lynn Margulis in Poundstone, op. cit. (10), p. 81.

79 Richard Berendzen quoted in Poundstone, op. cit. (10), p. 260.

80 John J. O'Connor, ‘TV view: ‘Cosmos – a trip into outer space’, New York Times, 28 September 1980, p. 330; Eliot Fremont-Smith quoted in Davidson, op. cit. (10), p. 334. For mockery see John J. O'Connor, ‘Putting Cosmos in perspective’, New York Times, 14 December 1980, p. 36; and recollections from colleagues in Davidson, op. cit. (10), pp. 333–338.

81 Poundstone, op. cit. (10), p. 282. This reputation had been circulating amongst the scientific community for decades – even the largely hagiographic Men of Space profile noted that ‘sometimes, Sagan's air of confidence is provoking. His assurance … has caused rancor’. Thomas, op. cit. (16), p. 186. But responses to Cosmos gave this a vast new audience.

82 Glenn Collins, ‘Sagans mix fact and fiction’, New York Times, 27 October 1985, p. 15E. Some have suggested that director Adrian Malone, with whom Sagan had a fraught relationship, deliberately included these shots to embarrass Sagan – see Poundstone, op. cit. (10), p. 260. Despite criticisms, the show was extremely popular. John O'Connor, ‘Putting Cosmos in perspective’, op. cit. (80), noted that ‘in terms of audience ratings, it is among the most popular television series produced for the Public Broadcasting Service’. Davidson, op. cit. (10), p. 318, estimates that by 1999 the show had been watched by over 400 million people.

83 See the collected interviews in Head, op. cit. (70).

84 Sagan, Carl, ‘Why we need to understand science’, Skeptical Inquirer (1990) 14(3), pp. 263269Google Scholar, 266. Earlier he used ‘seeing’ instead of ‘thinking’ – see his 1981 interview in Head, op. cit. (70), p. 73.

85 Carl Sagan, Cosmos, New York: Random House, pp. xii–xiii.

86 Sagan, Carl, Billions and Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium, New York, Ballatine Books, 1997Google Scholar, p. 28.

87 Jonathan Cott, ‘The cosmos’, Rolling Stone, 8 January 1981, p. 65; ‘A slayer of demons’, Psychology Today, January 1996, p. 30. Dragons of Eden was criticized by neurologists for siding with the contentious ‘triune brain’ model. Poundstone, op. cit. (10), p. 254.

88 ‘A slayer of demons’, op. cit. (87).

89 Sagan, Carl, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, New York: Ballatine Books, 1996, pp. 242244Google Scholar, emphasis added.

90 See Sagan, op. cit. (54); and reviews, op. cit. (64).

91 Sagan, op. cit. (54), discusses psychology; Sagan, Carl, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors: A Search for Who We Are (with Druyan, Ann), New York: Ballatine Books, 1993Google Scholar, discusses human evolution; and Sagan, Broca's Brain, New York: Random House, 1978; and Sagan, op. cit. (86), feature a variety of topics. Sagan is the only scientist in Goodell, op. cit. (9), who popularized outside their professional experience. For criticism see especially D. Holzman, ‘Whose brain is it, anyway? Why the politics of science is a beastly business’, Washington Post, 2 December 1984, p. SM6; and Pines, op. cit. (57).

92 See, for instance, his discussion of the Mars lander in Carl Sagan, Cosmos: A Spacetime Voyage, Episode 5, ‘Blues for a red planet’, PBS, first broadcast 26 October 1980.

93 LaFollette, op. cit. (7), pp. 6, 156–157.

94 The Cosmos team used to refer to Sagan's ‘Delphic oracle mode’. Spangenburg and Moser, op. cit. (10), p. 98.

95 Carl Sagan, Cosmos: A Spacetime Voyage, Episode 6, ‘Travellers’ tales’, PBS, first broadcast 2 November 1980.

96 Richard A. Baer, ‘TV: Carl Sagan's narrow view of the cosmos’, Wall Street Journal, 24 October 1980, p. 35; O'Connor, ‘Putting Cosmos in perspective’, op. cit. (80). See also David Paul Rebovich, ‘Sagan's metaphysical parable’, Social Science and Modern Society, July 1981, pp. 91–95; Cooper, op. cit. (56), Dennis Meredith, ‘Carl Sagan's cosmic connection and extraterrestrial life-wish’, Science Digest, June 1979, p. 34. Sagan's ‘innocent scientism’ featured in Walker, Percy's satirical work Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book, New York: Picador, 1983Google Scholar, pp. 173, 201, cited in Davidson, op. cit. (10), pp. 336–337.

97 Steward Brand quoted in Poundstone, op. cit. (10), p. 263.

98 Oreskes and Conway, op. cit. (8), p. 48. ‘TTAPS’ came from the names of the authors: Richard Turco, Owen Toon, Thomas Ackerman, Jim Pollack and Sagan.

99 Badash, op. cit. (8), p. 66.

100 Oreskes and Conway, op. cit. (8), pp. 51–54, 64.

101 Oreskes and Conway, op. cit. (8), pp. 49–51, 64; Badash, op. cit. (8), pp. 81–85. There are echoes of Hoyle's approach to his life-from-space theory. See Woolfe, op. cit. (29); Gregory, op. cit. (29).

102 Bowler, Peter J., The Fontana History of the Environmental Sciences, London: Fontana, 1992, pp. 392397Google Scholar; Weart, Spencer R., ‘Global warming, Cold War, and the evolution of research plans’, Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences (1997) 27(2), pp. 319356CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

103 Demeritt, David, ‘The construction of global warming and the politics of science’, Annals of the Association of American Geographers (2001) 91(2), pp. 307337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

104 Demeritt, op. cit. (103).

105 Badash, Lawrence, ‘Nuclear winter: scientists in the political arena’, Physics in Perspective (2001) 3, pp. 76105CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

106 Dörries, op. cit. (8).

107 Dörries, op. cit. (8).

108 The use of varying tactics within popular communication has been considered with reference to numerous scientific communicators – see, in particular, Gieryn on in, John TyndallBoundary-work and the demarcation of science from non-science: strains and interests in professional ideologies of scientists’, American Sociological Review (1983) 48(6), pp. 781795Google Scholar; Gregory, op. cit. (29).

109 For left-wing activism see Badash, op. cit. (8), pp. 86–87; and Oreskes and Conway, op. cit. (8), pp. 44–45, 52–53 for summaries; for an example, see Carl Sagan, Cosmos: A Spacetime Voyage, Episode 13, ‘Travellers’ tales’, PBS, first broadcast 21 December 1980.

110 Sagan, Carl, ‘Nuclear war and climatic catastrophe: some policy implications’, Foreign Affairs (1983) 62(2), pp. 257292CrossRefGoogle Scholar, 258. TTAPS had been subjected to an unconventional workshop-based peer-review process. Oreskes and Conway, op. cit. (8), p. 49.

111 The editorial mission of Foreign Affairs has consistently stated that ‘technical articles will be left to more special magazines’. See, accessed 26 May 2013.

112 Sagan, op. cit. (110), p. 261; for scientific jargon see especially 263–267; for military terminology see 260–261.

113 Sagan, op. cit. (110), p. 257.

114 Badash, op. cit. (8), p. 3, 66.

115 Carl Sagan, ‘The nuclear winter’, Parade, 30 October 1983, pp. 4–7, 5.

116 For discussion of news values see Gregory, Jane and Miller, Steve, Science in Public: Communication, Culture, and Credibility, Cambridge, MA: Perseus Press, 1998, pp. 110113Google Scholar; and Nelkin, op. cit. (14), pp. 112–113; for Sagan's relationship with Parade see Badash, op. cit. (8), p. 66.

117 For ‘oracle’ image see note 94 above. The format of the ‘lay sermon’ had been developed in the nineteenth century by T.H. Huxley. See Desmond, op. cit. (14). See also discussion of John Tyndall's boundary drawing between science and religion in Gieryn, op. cit. (14). I thank an anonymized reviewer for this point.

118 See Rebovich, op. cit. (96).

119 Dick and Strick, op. cit. (18), p. 123.

120 Sagan, op. cit. (110), p. 257.

121 James R. Dickenson, ‘Sagan, defense official clash on nuclear winter’, Washington Post, 15 March 1985, p. A30.

122 Dickenson, op. cit. (121).

123 William Buckley, ‘The specter of nuclear winter’, Washington Post, 22 April 1985, p. A15.

124 Russell Seitz, ‘The melting of “nuclear winter”’, Wall Street Journal, 5 November 1986, p. 36. The Wall Street Journal ‘had long been a venue for arms race hardliners and anti-environmentalists and a locus of right-wing journalistic crusading’, as noted in Badash, op. cit. (8), p. 91. It should be noted that elsewhere in the piece Seitz was supportive of more ‘sophisticated’ modelling, rather than opposed to modelling de facto. There are wider questions to be asked about how references to ‘computer-generated’ have been used to cast doubt both on mass-media images and on professional scientific models (see Demeritt, op. cit. (103)); however, this is beyond the scope of the current paper.

125 Seitz, op. cit. (124).

126 Seitz, op. cit. (124), emphases added.

127 Rodhe, Henning, ‘A nuclear winter’, Ambio (1984) 13(1), pp. 4344Google Scholar, 44; Emmanuel, Kerry A., ‘Towards a scientific exercise’, Nature (1986) 6051, p. 259CrossRefGoogle Scholar, cited in Badash, op. cit. (8).

128 Maddox, John, ‘From Santorini to Armageddon’, Nature (1984) 307, p. 107CrossRefGoogle Scholar, cited in Badash, op. cit. (8), p. 144.

129 Eliot Marshall, ‘Nuclear winter debate heats up’, Science, 16 January 1987, pp. 271–273, 271, cited in Badash, op. cit. (8), p. 296.

130 Poundstone, op. cit. (10), pp. 346, 389–392; Oreskes and Conway, op. cit. (8), p. 64; Achenbach, op. cit. (49).

131 Dick and Strick, op. cit. (18), p. 211.

132 Dick and Strick, op. cit. (18), pp. 192–200.

133 The full title The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (op. cit. 89) is the namesake of the ‘Candle Awards’, given by the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry in honour of ‘outstanding contributions to the public's understanding of science and scientific principles’. See Nisbet, Matt, ‘Candle in the dark and snuffed candle awards’, Skeptical Inquirer (1999) 23(2), p. 6Google Scholar. For agnosticism see, for example, Joel Achenbach, ‘Carl Sagan denied being an atheist: so what did he believe?’, at, accessed 30 April 2018; Brandon Fibbs, ‘Carl Sagan took my faith: and gave me awe’, at, accessed 30 April 2018.

134 Poundstone, op. cit. (10), p. xvii.

135 I thank Matthew Paskins for this point. See also Sivasundaram, Sujit, ‘Sciences and the global: on methods, questions, and theory’, Isis (2010) 101(1), pp. 146158CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed; and Mialet, Hélène, ‘Do angels have bodies? Two stories about subjectivity in science: the cases of William X and Mister H’, Social Studies of Science (1999) 29(4), pp. 551581CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

136 Latour and Woolgar, op. cit. (5); Latour, op. cit. (62).

137 Fleck, Ludwig, Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1935Google Scholar.

140 Sagan, op. cit. (89), p. 240.