Extraterrestrial Life

Sir William Herschel and Life on the Moon

Something interesting that I thought I’ll post up. William Herschel believed that life exists on the moon! And he made this deduction by observing the moon through his homemade 7 foot long reflector telescope – the longest reflector made at his time.

The evidence:

1. Among one of Herschel’s early papers submitted to the Royal Society is “Observation on the Mountains of the Moon”. This paper describes “lunar forests” existing on the moon.

Source: Holmes, R., 2008. The Age of Wonder. Harper Press.


2. Herschel proposed the idea that the craters on the moon were artificially built by lunar inhabitants. This circular craters functioned as towns that could harness solar energy. He called them “circuses”.


Source: Holmes, R., 2008. The Age of Wonder. Harper Press.


3. Herschel believed that the shadows on the moon could be either “forests” of vegetation or “black soil”.


Source: Holmes, R., 2008. The Age of Wonder. Harper Press.


These pictures were taken from a book, The Age of Wonders by Richard Holmes, that I recently bought and am still reading. It’s a wonderful biography of a selected scientist and explorers who lived during the Romantic Age.

A biography on the lives of the greatest scientist and explorers of the late 18th century, the Romantic Era.

Back to Herschel, I truly admire him for having the guts to stand up for what he believed in, despite having to go against Maskelyne’s (Maskelyne, who was leading astronomer at the Royal Society) opinion. At that time, it was such a heated controversy between them that Maskelyne himself visited Herschel in Herschel’s home to question him on the credibility of his astronomical works. However, Herschel never gave up! And mind you, Herschel had no professional qualification in astronomy (or even physics/mathematics for that matter) – a perfect reason to drop his endeavours in a field in which he had little expertise and credibility in.  Herschel was in fact a poor man, an émigré from Germany and self-taught in astronomy.
So, instead of succumbing to the doubts of others about his theories, Herschel admitted that his claim of life on the moon needed to be substantiated with more proof. He therefore persevered and kept observing the moon and skies through his telescope. And guess what he stumbled upon eventually while searching and mapping the stars, Uranus!

ps. Check out this post, Sir William Herschel’s Belief in Extraterrestrial Life, to read more about Herschel’s endeavours to discover life in space.

Categories: Extraterrestrial Life, History, The Moon | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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