The bold adventures of HG Wells, Isaac Asimov and Edgar Rice Burroughs have captured the imaginations of young boys and girls for generations. Thrilling excursions to the moon, to the center of the earth and to distant galaxies have made it possible for people to go in their mind where they would never have gone physically.
The books and short stories these men wrote have turned people of all ages to the scientific field. These stories gave them a sense of wonder about things beyond their understanding and beyond their limited viewpoint, encouraging them to step out beyond what they were familiar and comfortable with to explore new and strange worlds.
This is the same journey taken by Carl Sagan, who would fondly recall his childhood years spent voraciously reading the science fiction works of Edgar Rice Burroughs. He thrilled to the alien landscapes, unknown worlds, amazing discoveries and the excitement of experiencing something through a story that he could never experience on his own. This same excitement was what he brought to his own books, television show and speaking engagements. He would try to fill others with the same sense of wonder and make science feel real to everyone who would listen.
Sagan made an effort to imbue others with the excitement he had about scientific discovery and to help others to see the world in the same way that he saw it. He travelled a path that many young men and women had before him. Starting in the incredible works of past authors, he would move on in his adult years to wanting something more real and grounded but never losing his sense of wonder about science.
The story that Sagan shored about a journey that started with science fiction and ended with science fact is one share by many people throughout the past few decades. How many major scientists of our time have latched onto the wonder of science through fantastical stories and then moved on to making an impact on the scientific community? How many have cited Star Trek, Isaac Asimov and countless other fictional influences as the starting point for a very real and grounded career and interest in the scientific field? It is evident that the numbers are far higher than anyone can accurately say.
What’s significant about Sagan is that his books now influence others to get into the scientific field. Perhaps a young boy or girl started reading science fiction, heard the name Carl Sagan discussed among their peers and moved onto his fact-based writings only to end up in the scientific field in their adult life. This is a story that has been repeated for a few decades as well, and pioneers of the scientific celebrity like Sagan, Hawking and Hawkins have made science not only more appealing but also more accessible and mainstream. The doorway that begins with science fiction leads to a path that can go in quite unexpected ways, as Carl Sagan would have told you, and as many others after him have found out for themselves.