The Planet-Girded Suns: The History of Human Thought About Extrasolar Worldsby Sylvia Engdahl
Interest in extrasolar worlds is not new. From the late 17th century until the end of the 19th, almost all educated people believed that the stars are suns surrounded by inhabited planets--a belief that was expressed not in science fiction, but in serious speculation, both scientific and religious, as well as in poetry. Only during the first half of the 20th… See more details below
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Interest in extrasolar worlds is not new. From the late 17th century until the end of the 19th, almost all educated people believed that the stars are suns surrounded by inhabited planets--a belief that was expressed not in science fiction, but in serious speculation, both scientific and religious, as well as in poetry. Only during the first half of the 20th century was it thought that life-bearing extrasolar planets are rare.
This is not a science book--rather, it belongs to the category known as History of Ideas. First published by Atheneum in 1974, it tells the story of the rise, fall, and eventual renewal of widespread conviction that we are not alone in the universe. In this updated edition the chapters dealing with modern views have been revised to reflect the progress science has made during the past 40 years, including the actual detection of planets orbiting other stars.
More poetry from past centuries, source notes, and an extensive bibliography have been added to this edition. In addition it contains a new Afterword, "Confronting the Universe in the Twenty-First Century," discussing the relevance of past upheavals in human thought to an understanding of the hiatus in space exploration that has followed the Apollo moon landings.
From the published reviews:
"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 . . . 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." --Kirkus Reviews
"In a brisk, engrossing account Engdahl traces the theories and speculations concerning the possibility of extraterrestrial intelligent life throughout history. . . . This [book] is based on original research in primary sources and smoothly incorporates many quotations from scientists, philosophers, poets and theologians." --ALA Booklist
"The Planet-Girded Suns is a beautiful example of what the disciplined imagination can do. . . . It is a fine, carefully done history of the ideas about other worlds--nicely balanced in its presentation of the informational and mystical elements of the subject." --Horn Book
"The substantial treatment of the history of the idea of other solar systems, based largely on research in primary documents, should make it of use to scholars." --Isis One Hundred Second Critical Bibliography of the History of Science and Its Cultural Implications
"Easy to read and on a timely subject approached from an original point of view, this also serves as a model to show how an idea is researched and documented." --School Library Journal
"By carefully reconstructing her story from voluminous notes on many writers, both well-known and obscure, Engdahl has given vitality and dimension to the idea of extraterrestrial intelligence." --Cosmic Search
"This is an important and interesting book. . . . The author's thought-provoking presentation on the subject should provide some fascinating reading." --National Space Society, 2012
"Engdahl has crated a well-crafted, well-researched and unique view on exoplanets, and is a must-read for those who want a different view on space than the usual technical one." --Readers’ Favorites, 2012
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'The Planet-Girded Suns: History of Human Thought About Extrasolar Worlds' is just what the title claims. The author has done a massive amount of research on his subject. In her updated version, she has brought to light much documentation that was not available in earlier editions of her book. It astounds me how she obtained so much information! The author has gone to extensive research to aid others in knowledge and study of past, present and questions of the future cosmos. In spite of the subject matter, she never beleaguers one point too long. She offers an extensive amount of various examples to substantiate her points. The author, also, adds frequent poetry by well known authors adding to the confirming evidence. Well-known people were presented who were not famous for their insight into space and other worlds. Sylvia, presents astounding information of present studies, additionally, bringing up some very prevalent questions of the future of interplanetary exploring, relationships and pilgrimage. The author has accomplished creating interest without insufferably boring the reader over such an intense subject. For a thorough, timely, and understandable coverage on this subject, for school or for personal insight and knowledge, I highly recommend this book.
Reviewed by Ian Miller for Readers Favorite "The Planet-Girded Suns" by Sylvia Engdahl is about what people have thought about exoplanets, and how the thoughts of exoplanets have influenced our thinking. It starts off with an account of historical thoughts from the Aristotelian era through the middle ages to the present. This is quite an amazing survey, with quotes from documents that must have been very difficult to get hold of. It is interesting that during the various periods of history, people’s beliefs in exoplanets varied from “the heavens are littered with them” through to “we are probably unique.” These various positions depended on religious interpretations, thoughts that “our system is average” to “purpose”. Engdahl covers these various positions with great skill. The section on modern times, when exoplanets were found, is perhaps the thinnest part of the book, and it is evident that it was written only for the new edition. This is then followed by a section on questions about how such exoplanets fit in to our future, with philosophical questions of what we should or should not do, if we were able. It discusses SETI, UFOs, space travel, “use” of exoplanets, and a number of other issues, all from a philosophical viewpoint rather than a technical one. Finally, scattered through the book, and at the end, are a number of poems and writings relating to how people have thought about exoplanets. Poets include Donne, More, Dryden, Milton, Chudleigh (who employed Descarte's "vortex theory"), Pope, Coleridge, Shelley, Tennyson, Byron, Oersted, Whitman, Hardy, Kipling, and Engdahl. "The Planet-Girded Suns" by Sylvia Engdahl is quite an amazing book. Engdahl has crated a well-crafted, well-researched and unique view on exoplanets, and is a must-read for those who want a different view on space than the usual technical one.