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Memories From a Former Student

I was a rising college senior in the summer of 1965, and was considering Harvard as a possible Graduate school in Astronomy. I had contacted the Astronomy Dept to set up an interview, as I was planning to come East, from California, late that summer. I was assigned a then very young (and still very unknown) Assistant Professor, Carl Sagan, as my interviewer. I was very impressed by our meeting, and was ultimately accepted as a Grad Student, entering in the Fall of 1966. I knew I was very much interested in Astronomy, as a whole, but did not have any idea as to what specific field I would concentrate on.

I took a course in Planetary Astronomy from Carl, as a 2nd Year student, and that lead to publishing 2 papers with Carl as co-author, on the microwave spectrum of Venus. In order to get that research approved, Carl had to personally ‘go to bat’ for me, with a major governing committee within the Astronomy dept. That really impressed me.

Little did I know at the time, but Carl was in the process of being forced out of the Astronomy Department at Harvard – a story that many at Harvard are still not willing to acknowledge. That fall, Carl was denied Tenure at Harvard, and left for Cornell where he was immediately appointed a Full Professor, and named Director of the Center for Planetary Studies.

I almost followed him to Cornell, but ultimately chose to stay at Harvard, and received my PhD in 1972.

Carl was a superb teacher and mentor, and I will always remember the year and half that I studied and learned under his tutelage.

Arthur Wood
Former Sagan Student
Harvard University 1966-1972
PhD, Astronomy, 1972