JF Ptak Science Books Post 2454
- "The color of the water on Mars appears then to be same as that of terrestrial water..." --Camille Flammarion, Scientific American Supplement, May 10, 1879, pp2787-2788
- Image source: Google books, where the full text of the article is available. My own copy was simply too large for scanning.
- The original weekly issue of Scientific American with this article is available for purchase via the blog bookstore, here.
I found this interesting map of Mars in the May 10, 1879 issue of the Scientific American Supplement. The partially-anonymous author straight-away makes a provocative claim,
"WHEN sixteen years ago I published the last edition my work The Plurality of Inhabited Worlds I did expect to see the speedy confirmation that the progress astronomy was to give to my essay by allowing us so speak to put our finger on the manifestations of life"
and then spends the rest of the article supporting the reinterpretation of Mars as another Earth.
This is hardly an early assumption of the provocative thought of life elsewhere in the universe--there are a number of authors who have written on the topic, and for hundreds of years prior to this. (Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds by the wicked-smart aesthete Bernard le Bovier de Fontanelle was published in 1686--the year before Newton's Principia--and elegantly argued for teh plurality of worlds and inhabited earth-like planets revolving around other stars, spread throughout the universe. Cyrano de Bergerac, Christian Huygens, J.J.L. Lalande--with an interesting Christian-based pluralist argument for not restricting the glory of the Creator's efforts to simply life here on Earth, and (later) David Brewster, each wrote convincingly on the prospect of extraterrestrial life.)
The author of this article turns out to be Camille Flammarion, an abundantly creative writer and observer, perhaps not so well known today as he should or could be, a sub-Verneian astronomer/publisher/writer whose ideas did not make it much past the nineteenth century. (And perhaps he or the editors at the Scientific American felt it unnecessary to identify him except by the title of one of his books because he was so very well known at that point, being the author of 70 books and all, and also for being perhaps the most talented of pop-science writers.) He does give us this map, though, and tries with a mighty effort to solidify the gauzy appearances of structure of the Martian surface. He honors astronomers with the continents and oceans that he sees, and is far more universal/multi-cultural in his acknowledgement of scientific accomplishment. Here we see the oceans Kepler and Newton, and seas of Hooke (somewhat surprisingly), and (Giacomo) Maraldi (Italian, 17th c), and Huggins, Maedler; and land masses of Copernicus, Galileo, Herschel, Cassini, Tycho, Laplace, Huygens. This version of the map comes 14 years after Proctor's first attempt at a Martian map1 (and evidently the first map of Mars with a precise nomenclature) and which itself came another 25 years after the first first map of Mars by Wilhelm Beer (1797-1850) and Johann Heinrich Mädler (1794-1874).
Flammarion makes a strong case for life on Mars even without evidence, or at most the scanty suggestion of scientific proof, which is perhaps one reason why his brand of scientific adventurism and speculation didn't survive into very much of the 20th century. Here are some examples from the article:
"Can there be red meadows and red forests up there? Can it be that trees with foliage offer a substitute there for our quiet and delightfully shaded woods and are our scarlet poppies typical of the botany of Mars?"
"Are we authorized create all these analogies? In reality we see only red green and white blotches on the little disk of this planet. Is the indeed terra firma is the green really water and is the indeed snow In a word is this truly a world like our own?"
The question is asked, and then answered immediately in the next paragraph:
"Yes! Now we are able to assert it. The appearance Mars varies constantly. White spots move about over disk too often modifying its apparent configuration spots can be nothing but clouds. The white spots at increase or diminish according to the seasons like our terrestrial circumpolar ice fields which would precisely the same aspect the same variations to an placed on Venus..."
Elsewhere in his Celestial Wonders, Flammarion writes: “The world of Mars is so much alike the world on Earth that, had we traveled thither someday and forgotten our route, it would be almost impossible for us to tell which of the two is our native planet. Without the Moon, which would mercifully relieve our incertitude, we would run the enormous risk of calling upon the natives of Mars while assuming we have landed in Europe or in some terrestrial neighborhood.”
1. The Proctor Map of Mars
[Source: Wiki, here. R.A. Proctor: Other Worlds than Ours. London, printed in 1870, page 94.]
The Proctor map was in turn based upon earlier work by Dawes:
[Source: Planetologia, http://planetologia.elte.hu/ipcd/proctor_1865.jpg And in general see this link for much more in-depth appreciation and history of the Proctor map.]