THE PLANET-GIRDED SUNS by Sylvia Louise Engdahl


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Sylvia Louise Engdahl turns from science fiction to the history of ideas to prove that the concept of intelligent life outside our solar system is nothing new -- in fact, its popular acceptance is traced here all the way back to Giordano Bruno who, more than Copernicus, was responsible for the post-Aristotelian cosmology. Of course, this older idea of extra-solar life was not based on science, but on the assumption that God must have created the stars for some purpose. Nevertheless, Engdahl has marshalled an impressive and fascinating selection of primary sources -- including a roster of believers that includes Newton, Ben Franklin, Walt Whitman, and rocket pioneer Robert Goddard; and excerpts from popular hymns, poetry, and 17th century proto-science fiction. Engdahl shows how the idea was challenged in the 19th century and then revived on a different, more scientific basis, and traces it through present-day attempts to communicate with other worlds by radio messages and the universal greeting designed for the plaque of Pioneer Ten. Whether or not any of this justifies further efforts to make contact with other life-forms, Engdahl has shown how deep this vein of speculation runs. . .and reminded us that our ancestors entertained a view of the universe that was larger and more imaginative than the history books lead us to believe. Challenging and original.

Pub Date: Oct. 17th, 1974
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Atheneum