Ave Atque vale, frater: Essay in Honor of Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan died Friday. Saturday evening, A&E presented his biography.

It had, obviously, been in production for some time...Carl Sagan was and will remain a milestone in the sociology of science. It was his 13-part series on PBS which marked both the apogee and the transform- ation of the knowledge process. For the first time in human history, the man and the series brought the arcane knowledge of the universe out of the dusty files of academia into the living minds of millions who had neither degree nor honorific role in the production of science.

Sagan's life is tribute to the transformation of the knowledge process from the province of remote scholars to the provenance of public discussion and debate. This essay is one effort in explication of the impact of this new way to do the knowledge process; in the public media as much as in the specialized Institute.

More than that, the life of Sagan marks a major step in the integration and evaluation of science in the public interest.

Let us begin this tribute by a brief look at Sagan's life...again from the A&E Biography:

In tribute to Sagan, I will finish continue this Series with several essays on the knowledge process as its weaves and warps through time and space. Next week, I will send along: Structurally Stupid Societies: Exploration in Artificial Stupidity, a lecture I gave some years ago to the grad students at the Fielding Institute in California.

Then I will offer you a lecture entitled, A Brief History of Stephen Hawking. Then I will pick up this Series from the University of Vermont where I will teach the Spring Semester. The first in the new semester and the third in this Homage to Sagan is entitled, A Brief History of Steve Pfohl...who is a leading architect in the transformation of criminology and social problems theory from a modernist to a post- modernist perspective.

And now, I will end this tribute to Carl Sagan by giving you the full text of the quotation in the Subject Line above. It could have come from a voyager from deep space who had recovered and deciphered the message written by Sagan and his wife which went along with Voyager, the deep space capsule sent by NASA in the hope that there was, indeed, intelligent life somewhere in the Universe. But the quotation, Ave Atque Vale, Frater, comes from Catullus who lived 21 centuries ago.

Atque in Perpetuum, Frater

From far away and over many a wave
I come my brother to your early grave,
to bring you one last offering in death
and o'er your final rest, expend this idle breath;
for Fate has turned your living mind to dust
and snatched you, cruelly, brother, from us.

Yet take this gift, brought as a brother bade,
in sorrow...to your passing shade;
A brother's tears has wet them o'er and o'er;
And so, our brother, Hail and Farewell, evermore.

         ...apology to the translator, Wm. Marris.

TR Young