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July 1: Iosef Shklovsky and Cosmic Rays

June 30, 2015

YoungShklovskiiSoviet astrophysicist Iosef Shklovsky, who studied radio astronomy, the Sun’s corona, supernovae, and cosmic rays, was born in the Ukraine on this date in 1916. He became best known when his 1962 book, Universe, Life, Intelligence, was expanded upon and reissued in 1966 in collaboration with Carl Sagan as Intelligent Life in the Universe, the first widely read book of science that explored the likelihood of extraterrestrial life. Shklovsky also proposed that cosmic rays from supernova explosions within 300 light years of the sun have been responsible for some of Earth’s mass extinctions. His other books include a posthumous memoir (published as a mid-1980s samizdat publication in the USSR before he died at 68), Five Billion Vodka Bottles to the Moon: Tales of a Soviet Scientist. An asteroid and a crater on the Martian moon Phobos are named for him.

He was “a self-described fortunate fellow — born into a poor Ukrainian Jewish household — who rose, after many rejections, to a seat in the Soviet Academy and a major role in that nation’s space program.” —Kirkus Reviews