Edited with Commentary by Michael J. Crowe
This book presents key documents from the pre-1915 history of the extraterrestrial life debate. Introductions and commentaries accompany each source document, some of which are published here for the first time or in a new translation. Authors included are Aristotle, Lucretius, Aquinas, Nicholas of Cusa, Galileo, Kepler, Pascal, Fontenelle, Huygens, Newton, Pope, Voltaire, Kant, Paine, Chalmers, Darwin, Wallace, Dostoevski, Lowell, and Antoniadi, among others. Michael J. Crowe has compiled an extensive bibliography not available in other sources.
These materials reveal that the extraterrestrial life debate, rather than being a relatively modern phenomenon, has extended throughout nearly all Western history and has involved many of its leading intellectuals. The readings also demonstrate that belief in extraterrestrial life has had major effects on science and society, and that metaphysical and religious views have permeated the debate throughout much of its history.
“This is a valuable book that is not available anywhere else. . . . Crowe’s purpose is to let the reader see the original words of the authors who discussed other worlds. Crowe puts these documents in context by his substantial introduction and commentary. . . . Such a source book serves an important purpose, and is ideal for teaching and generating discussion in class. The subject is of increasing importance as we find more and more about the possibilities of extraterrestrial life through current disciplines such as astrobiology, bioastronomy, and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.”—Steven J. Dick, Director, NASA History Division, NASA
“Having established himself as the world’s authority on the history of the debates about extraterrestrial life in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Michael Crowe is perfectly positioned to produce this source book. The introductory commentaries on the excerpts from primary sources he has so judiciously selected reveal again and again that no one else knows this subject as well as he does.”—Frederick Gregory, University of Florida
“There are loads of books on ET, but only a small number of them take a historical approach . . . Anyone interested in the history of the extraterrestrial life debate will be interested in this book; it does complete in a certain way previous historical work done by Steven Dick and Michael Crowe by providing large portions of original texts rather than merely short quotations from them. . . . All the various perspectives, religious, literary, astronomical, philosophical, seem adequately represented. The multidisciplinary aspect of the debate comes across well from the authors selected.”—Marie I. George, St. John’s University
“This source book, in fact, a monumental anthology, presents key documents from the pre-1915 history of the extraterrestrial life debate. . . . The book is designed to shed light on the question of the existence of extraterrestrials, and on those who sought to tackle the question.” — Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith
“Who wrote about the possibilities and implications of intelligent extraterrestrial life? Thanks to this superb anthology one is prompted to ask, Who didn’t? Michael Crowe is no mere compiler of facsimile reprints of primary sources, but a scholarly editor. This source book is a wonderful addition to the teacher’s toolkit and should find a readership far wider than historians of science.” — ISIS