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Carl Sagan and Isaac Asimov

The Letter Isaac Asimov Wrote to His Idol, Carl Sagan


The writer and the scientist, who mutually admired each other, maintained a fantastic epistolary relation for over 25 years.

Novelist Isaac Asimov is 14 years older than the scientist and famous pop-science broadcaster Carl Sagan. However, when remembering his first encounter with him, Asimov explains he expected to meet someone entirely different: a man he felt like he knew through his books:

I imagined he would be an old person (the stereotypical astronomer with a telescope), but what I actually found was a young, attractive, twenty-seven year old; tall, dark, eloquent, and absolutely and incredibly intelligent.

In 1971 the two would partake in a historical encounter together with two other spaceflight writers: Ray Bradbury and Arthur C. Clarke, as well as Walter Sullivan, editor of the scientific section of the New York Times. The meeting had the objective of exploring and discussing the implications of the arrival of the Mariner 9’s mission in Mars, as well as the development of the human mind and to imagine possible futures. But Asimov and Sagan knew each other before this.

The 13th of December of 1973, Asimov sent a short thank you note to Sagan, as a grateful reader and, nonetheless, with a subtle humorous tone in the note’s closing sentence:

I have just finished The Cosmic Connection and loved every word of it. You are my idea of a good writer because you have an unmannered style, and when I read what you write, I hear you talking.

One thing about the book made me nervous. It was entirely too obvious that you are smarter than I am. I hate that.

This would only be the first of many letters and notes that Asimov wrote to Sagan and which is part of the epistolary volume Yours, Isaac Asimov: A Lifetime of Letters that was edited by his brother, Stanley Asimov, and which has recently been published.

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