Sunday, March 13, 2011

Happy Birthday, Percival

Lowell in the Lowell ObservatoryToday in 1855, Percival Lowell was born. He didn't discover Pluto, but his belief that Planet X lay beyond Neptune and Uranus and perturbed their orbits led to its discovery. Pluto of course isn't big enough to be "Planet X" - in fact, the whole "Planet X" thing was due to a mistake in measuring the mass of Neptune.

When you couple that with Pluto's subsequent reclassification; Lowell's mass building of observatories and funding programs; his enormous one of Lowell's maps of Marspopularization efforts; and his obsessive drawings of canals and oases on Mars, the remnants of a desperate and dying ancient civilization ... well, you do have to admit that maybe Lowell had more money than sense.

Still, he contributed an enormous amount to astronomy and science fiction, and so we should be grateful. Let's raise a glass and pull out our Wells or our Bradbury and wish Percival Lowell a happy birthday!

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