Carl Sagan Presents Six Lectures on Earth, Mars & Our Solar System … For Kids (1977)

The Royal Institution Christmas Lectures for Children — it’s a tradition that began back in 1825 when the inventor Michael Faraday organized an annual lecture series for kids, hoping to instill in a younger generation a love for science. Almost two centuries later, the tradition continues. Eminent figures like Sir David Attenborough and Richard Dawkins (watch here) presented lectures to youngsters in 1973 and 1991 (respectively). And the great astronomer Carl Sagan took his turn in 1977, offering six lectures on our solar system. The first two talks offer a broad overview of the planetary system, setting the stage for three presentations (see below) dedicated to Mars, a topic that holds special interest this week. With NASA just having landed its rover Curiosity on the surface of Mars, it’s particularly interesting to watch Sagan talk about the knowledge gained from early NASA orbiters, particularly the Mariner and Viking missions. In a rather timely way, Sagan’s lectures put the Curiosity mission in a grander historical context, a deeper history of space exploration.

Sagan’s talks assume no specialized knowledge and run roughly 60 minutes each. You can find more Christmas lectures on the RI website here.

The Outer Solar System and Life

The History of Mars

Mars Before Viking

Mars After Viking

Planetary Systems Beyond The Sun

We’ll be adding this course to the Astronomy section of our collection, 1100 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.


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  1. Rob Cawston says . . . | August 7, 2012 / 8:19 am

    I wondered if you could amend this post to also point people towards the Ri Channel where the videos are available for free in much better definition and with additional time-coded online resources:

    We’re digitising the back catalogue of Lectures from 1966 to present day. Latest series is Christopher Zeeman from 1978 (more to follow in next few weeks):

  2. Rob Cawston says . . . | August 7, 2012 / 8:20 am

    Not sure if my last message made it but wanted to alert you to the Lectures in better definition with additional learning resources on the Ri Channel – we’re digitising all the lectures since 1966. Wondered if this could be mentioned in the post.


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