Saturday, March 14, 2009

Happy Birthday to Giovanni Schiaparelli

Born March 14, 1835, Giovanni Schiaparelli was an Italian astronomer and science historian. He is generally attributed to discovering the "canals" on Mars. During Italy's "Great Opposition" of 1877, he observed a dense network of linear structures on the surface of Mars which he called "canali" in Italian, meaning "channels" but mistranslated as "canals". While the latter term indicates an artificial construction, the former indicates the connotation that it can also be a natural configuration of the land. From this incorrect translation, various assumptions about life on Mars derived, as the "canals" of Mars soon became famous, giving rise to waves of hypotheses, speculation and folklore about the possibility of life on Mars. Wikipedia.

Probably some of the most sensational of the books romanticizing life on Mars are by Edgar Rice Burroughs, born September 1, 1875. Burroughs, most famous as the author of Tarzan of the Apes, wrote a whole series of books about John Carter and his adventures on Mars. Actually, the sensational covers of the books did almost as much as the content to make Burroughs rich and famous.

I have found the books to be entertaining, especially for reading on airplane flights, but since I don't spend much time reading fiction any more, they are pretty low on my list.

The heroes of the movies about Tarzan of the Apes, at least the old ones, were not even vaguely like character in Burroughs' novels.

How ironical, that Schiaparelli should be remembered because of books about John Carter of Mars!

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