11/09/2011 04:58 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Happy Birthday Carl Sagan (VIDEO)

Dear Dr. Carl Sagan,

You captured my imagination when I first read The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark about ten years ago. I was too young to watch the Cosmos series when it originally aired on PBS. Today, thirty years later, your elegant scientific prose remains not only relevant, but unparalleled in its breadth and power to inspire.

As a student of the biological sciences, I was never well versed in astrophysics. Although I find planetary science fascinating, it is far from my forte. I want to devour every book I get my hands on, but I often find myself struggling with even popular astronomy texts. Not so with your writings. Your books are about so much more than what lies beyond the boundaries of our atmosphere. They are about where we come from, why we are here, where we are going, and how beautifully significant our seemingly insignificant lives really are. You inspired me, from a young age, not to rest in the ostensible comfort of myth and superstition, but to explore the universe in which I reside with a questioning eye. You taught me that actively engaging in the quest to know will always lead me to the sublime wonders of nature.

I feel very strongly that scientific thought is not a special talent endowed only upon scientists. I also feel strongly that we have a moral responsibility, as citizens of this pale blue dot, to learn everything we can about the true and extraordinary nature of nature, because (to use what is, in my opinion, one of the most overused words in the English language today) it is amazing. And future generations deserve to know what it is to be truly amazed. You said that "we are a way for the cosmos to know itself." I want to know myself, and you have instilled in me the passion to attempt to inspire others to do the same.

You were a great man. Your work continues to inspire a whole new generation of thinkers. You are missed. Happy birthday, Dr. Carl Sagan.

Cara Santa Maria

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