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Steven DickAppointment: Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology

Area of study: Astrobiology, Planetary Science

Affiliation(s): Denver Museum of Nature & Science

Kluge Center project: The Anthropocene

Residency: November 2012 – December 2014

Dr. David Grinspoon held the inaugural Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology from 2012-2013, and continued his residency as a distinguished visiting scholar in 2014. A well-known researcher in planetary science, author of “Lonely Planets: The Natural Philosophy of Alien Life,” and former curator of astrobiology in the Department of Space Sciences at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, Grinspoon's research examined the human history of the earth and the choices facing humanity in the Anthropocene Era.

Grinspoon researched the Anthropocene Era from an astrobiological perspective. The Anthropocene is the name given by some scientists to the era in the Earth’s history wherein humans are the key drivers of geological and climatic change. The controversial topic involves issues of climate change, evolution and the future of human civilization on the planet. Grinspoon’s work added the perspective of astrobiology to the Anthropocene debate, examining the changes to the earth throughout its history from interplanetary perspective, comparing it to the histories of other planets to determine what may be new and different, and asking if that perspective illuminated choices in how human beings manage the planet going forward.

Grinspoon participated in numerous programs and interdisciplinary conversations at the Kluge Center on the Anthropocene, convening astrobiologists, historians, literary scholars, journalists and scientists to discuss the role of human interactions with the planet and the consequences for civilization. Beyond the Kluge Center, Grinspoon played an enormous role as an ambassador for astrobiology. He met with Members of Congress; delivered several high-profile lectures; appeared in dozens of media outlets including The New York Times, The New Yorker Elements, Air & Space Smithsonian Magazine, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Slate, and Astrobiology Magazine; and hosting a day-long symposium on the longevity of human civilization featuring scientists, scholars, science fiction authors, and journalists with remarks by U.S. Representative Lamar Smith, Chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

From childhood through his early career, Grinspoon had a long association with Carl Sagan as friend, teacher, and mentor. (Read about their relationship here.) In 2006, Grinspoon received the Carl Sagan Medal for Excellence in Public Communication from the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society. Grinspoon delieverd the 2013 Carl Sagan Lecture at the American Geophysical Union annual meeting.

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