Canals Once Believed to Network Around Mars

7c497201e8a5afe6b022af5001c10b8eResearch and design projects on colonizing Mars have been a source of wonder for mankind since they began in the 1990s. But, there used to be a different reason that man would look up to the sky in awe. That reason was the belief that sentient intelligent extra-terrestrials lived on the Martian surface.

Percival Lawrence Lowell, a famous American businessman, mathematician, and astronomer fully believed that intelligent life was creating canals on Mars to sustain life on the dying planet. He wrote multiple books on his observations and conclusions on Mars. Shown here is one of his many maps detailing the canal structures included in his book Mars and its Canals, which was featured in Lehigh’s Cartographic Perspectives Exhibit. His views, though debated by industry professionals, took the interest of many people. Lowell and his claims were not well respected by those in the astronomical community of his time. However, he made his mark on history through his theory on Planet X. Lowell’s search for the mysterious planet that supposedly shifted the orbits of Uranus and Neptune, which was erroneously calculated, came up fruitless. However, he started a fourteen year search for the mysterious ninth planet which concluded in the discovery of the dwarf planet, Pluto, located where Lowell had theorized. Despite being a poor astronomer, making exaggerated conclusions about life on Mars, falsely identifying surface features on Venus, and failing to find the massive ninth planet that he theorized, he made a lasting mark on our knowledge of the Solar System and many of his books are available in the Lehigh University Libraries.