On this date in 1949, multi-talented author, popular science promoter, writer/producer and activist Ann Druyan was born in Queens, N.Y. Druyan was the longtime collaborator and spouse of astronomer Carl Sagan (until his death in 1996). The two science enthusiasts had two children together. Sagan and Druyan co-wrote the bestsellers Comet (1985) and Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1992). Sagan credited her as a contributor to his bestselling books Contact (1997), Pale Blue Dot (1997), The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (1997) and Billions and Billions, posthumous, 1998, in which Druyan wrote the poignant epilogue addressing Sagan's nonbelief and death. She recently found his long-lost essays from the 1985 Gifford Lectures in Glasgow, Scotland, and had them published as The Varieties of Scientific Experience (2006). (The title was a twist on William James' famous The Varieties of Religious Experience.) Druyan co-wrote the Emmy and Peabody award-winning television series "Cosmos," viewed by half a billion in over 60 countries, which was the most widely watched series in the history of American public television. She served as creative director of the NASA Voyager Interstellar Record Project affixed to the Voyager I and II spacecraft. Her articles have appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times Sunday Magazine, Reader's Digest, Parade, Discover and The Washington Post. She co-produced and co-created the hit film "Contact," which starred an atheist-scientist heroine played by freethinker Jodie Foster. Druyan produced and wrote the screenplay for "Comet," a 3-D IMAX motion picture. Druyan, who has organized for peace and against nuclear testing, is founder and CEO of Cosmos Studios, has served as Secretary of the Federation of American Scientists since 1988, is on the Board of Directors of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, and is the director of the Children's Health Fund, which provides mobile pediatric care to disadvantaged children.
In her active life, Druyan has always made time to advocate for science, and speak out against the illusion of religion. "By disobeying god, we escape from his totalitarian prison where you cannot ask any questions, where you must never question authority. We become our human selves," Druyan wrote in The Skeptical Inquirer (November/December 2003). She received the 1997 Freethought Heroine Award from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and during her acceptance speech, ardently reflected: "I think that Carl's voice . . . was a great, great service to our culture and to our society, because not only did he convey the importance of skepticism, but also the importance of wonder, too: to have both wonder and skepticism at the same time. People think that if you are a scientist you have to give up that joy of discovery, that passion, that sense of the great romance of life. I say that's completely opposite of the truth. The fact is that the real thing is far more dazzling, far more goose-bump-raising, than any myth or childish story that we can make up." She told Freethought Radio in October, 2006: "The Universe revealed by science is one of far more awesome grandeur than any religion has ever posited."
"I don't have any faith, but I have a lot of hope, and I have a lot of dreams of what we could do with our intelligence if we had the will and the leadership and the understanding of how we could take all of our intelligence and our resources and create a world for our kids that is hopeful."
—Ann Druyan, in an article for The Skeptical Inquirer, "Ann Druyan Talks About Science, Religion, Wonder, Awe . . . and Carl Sagan," November/December 2003
Compiled by Bonnie Gutsch; Photo by Brent Nicastro
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