James B. Pollack


A student and collaborator of Carl Sagan, Pollack excelled in interdisciplinary scientific studies. While ‘nuclear winter’ (a term he helped coin) entered the popular lexicon and imagination, his other achievements in planetary modeling – such as determining the composition of Saturn’s rings and creating models of how gas giants form – left a more lasting legacy. He was as NASA scientist and played a role in several planetary missions, and earned numerous accolades for his troubles, including top awards in his fields, and both an asteroid and a Martian crater named after him. His articles in Scientific American are archived here.

It is difficult to find detailed information on Pollack’s romantic life, though the sources that mention it at all refer to him as gay. All the available online sources at the time of this writing recount the same anecdote from a biography of Carl Sagan: When Pollack’s partner was having trouble accessing medical services at the university’s emergency room, Sagan stepped in to save the day. Other details – including said partner’s name – are not visible via a cursory Google search. His New York Times obituary does not mention his parter surviving him, though that may have been a homophobic omission.

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