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555 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0394715964
ISBN-10: 0394715969
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Editorial Reviews Review

Cosmos was the first science TV blockbuster, and Carl Sagan was its (human) star. By the time of Sagan's death in 1996, the series had been seen by half a billion people; Sagan was perhaps the best-known scientist on the planet. Explaining how the series came about, Sagan recalled:

I was positive from my own experience that an enormous global interest exists in the exploration of the planets and in many kindred scientific topics--the origin of life, the Earth, and the Cosmos, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, our connection with the universe. And I was certain that this interest could be excited through that most powerful communications medium, television.

Sagan's own interest and enthusiasm for the universe were so vivid and infectious, his screen presence so engaging, that viewers and readers couldn't help but be caught up in his vision. From stars in their "billions and billions" to the amino acids in the primordial ocean, Sagan communicated a feeling for science as a process of discovery. Inevitably, some of the science in Cosmos has been outdated in the years since 1980--but Sagan's sense of wonder is ageless. --Mary Ellen Curtin --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“Magnificent . . . With a lyrical literary style, and a range that touches almost all aspects of human knowledge, Cosmos often seems too good to be true.”The Plain Dealer

“Sagan is an astronomer with one eye on the stars, another on history, and a third—his mind’s—on the human condition.”Newsday

“Brilliant in its scope and provocative in its suggestions . . . shimmers with a sense of wonder.”The Miami Herald

“Sagan dazzles the mind with the miracle of our survival, framed by the stately galaxies of space.”Cosmopolitan

“Enticing . . . iridescent . . . imaginatively illustrated.”The New York Times Book Review --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (April 12, 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394715969
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394715964
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 0.9 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (555 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #673,098 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Carl Sagan was Professor of Astronomy and Space Sciences and Director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University. He played a leading role in the Mariner, Viking, and Voyager spacecraft expeditions to the planets, for which he received the NASA medals for Exceptional Scientific Achievement. Dr. Sagan received the Pulitzer Prize and the highest awards of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Foundation, and many other awards, for his contributions to science, literature, education, and the preservation of the environment. His book Cosmos (accompanying his Emmy- and Peabody Award-winning television series of the same name) was the bestselling science book ever published in the English language, and his bestselling novel, Contact, was turned into a major motion picture.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

135 of 144 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 7, 1999
Format: Paperback
Carl Sagan's Cosmos, tells the strory of 15 billion years of cosmic history like no one else can.
The book shows how broad and deep Carl's interests extend and draws the reader into a world of fascination. Although the book is primarily about how science has developed in our society the book touches on subjects such as history, philosophy, religion, cultures and so fourth. The book is written in simple terms and is understandable to those without a background in science.
Carl has an amazing ability to write with such enthusiasim and sincerity. Although the book was written at the height of the cold war it reflects an overall optimisim and hope for our species and planet. Carl Sagan is a remarkable human being and humanitarian as is reflected in all of his books. Cosmos is in some way his manifesto and I believe his best book. Carl's death was a loss not just to science but also to our species.
Carl Sagan is my favourite author and Cosmos my favourite book.
I recommend Cosmos to all of those who can read! *****!!!
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133 of 142 people found the following review helpful By A.J. on March 19, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
As one of the great astronomer-writers of the Twentieth Century, Carl Sagan was extraordinarily communicative with the non-scientific public, able and willing to take the time and trouble to break down the mysteries of the universe into comprehensible fragments. The purpose of this book, which can be considered a companion to the acclaimed television series, is to explain what we know about the universe from a cosmological perspective and why we need to know more about it.
Physicists often talk of the unity of the branches of physics: the interrelation and application of mechanics, thermodynamics, electricity and magnetism, and optics to the motion of everything from galaxies to subatomic particles. Similarly, Sagan's major theme is the unity of cosmology with the natural and physical sciences that define what we know about the Earth. Does the stifling, carbon dioxide-choked atmosphere of Venus imply anything about the greenhouse effect on Earth? Was a nearby cosmic explosion called a supernova indirectly responsible for the disappearance of the dinosaurs? What would be the biological consequences for the survivors of a global nuclear war? The answers to these questions are vital to the continuation of life as we know it.
Sagan also identifies cosmology with its own history. He lavishes reverent detail on the ancient Greek and Alexandrian study of the stars and planetary motions, the pioneering work by the Renaissance scientists Brahe, Kepler, Copernicus, Huygens, and others, and the men who revolutionized science with the formulation of laws of motion, Newton and Einstein.
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94 of 103 people found the following review helpful By Roger McEvilly (the guilty bystander) on January 7, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I first saw the series COSMOS on TV in about 1980 when I was about 12, and have been searching for similar material ever since. Carl Sagan is able to capture the mystery and the beauty of astronomy, science, art and religion in a way that most poeple can follow, and in a way that is interesting and invigorating. He is a very clear thinker and presenter. And this book, based on that very popular TV series of the same name, I found in an old book store, which I immediately grabbed. Here was something of my childhood, and something very special. The book did not disappoint. It is filled with stunning images, photographs, illustrations, diagrams and so on. And the text is fun, enlightening, clear, visionary, and precise. Not surprising, since it is written by an atronomer at heart. It is also advisable to search around and buy the illustrated edition-the illustrations add much to the text.

Carl places the earth on the shores of the cosmic ocean-the title of the first chapter. He traces religious, artistic and scientific investigations into the 'cosmos' throughout the millenia, and the amount of useful historical information he brings up is quite extraordinary. He draws together the thoughts of ancient cultures like the Greeks, Babylonians, Stone Age man, Renaissance thinkers, poets, artists, and famous scientists, and ties these in with many modern discoveries concerning the nature of the universe. One can see his strong leanings on the likelihood of extraterrestial life and the SETI project between the lines, as well as his views on religion and its place in the human psyche. One particularly interesting peice describes the downfall of the old greek science and the destruction of the library at Alexandria, and how these tie in with his views on history, science and religion in general.
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68 of 76 people found the following review helpful By Baby Dad on June 15, 2012
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
The content of this book makes it a classic. But the quality of the mass market edition fails to do it justice: the print is the tiniest I have ever seen (or not seen--who knew so many words could be crowded onto a page?). The covers are the event horizon beyond which legibility disappears. The layout is perfunctory and the paper cheap. Yes, mass markets are not printed for elegance, but this one sets a new low. For a few dollars more, the paperback edition, also available from Amazon, provides everything you were hoping for, including a large number of high-quality illustrations and photos, that, like the much more expensive hard cover edition, creates in the reader the sense of surprise and awe that Sagan intended.
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