The Modern Solar System, the Diversity of Worlds, and William Whewell

  • Articles (blog posts)
  • 1000 words each
  • Level: all audiences

A pair of posts by Chris Graney on The Catholic Astronomer website. Graney discusses work by Michael J. Crowe (the Rev. John Cavanaugh, C.S.C., Professor Emeritus in the Program of Liberal Studies and the Graduate Program in History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Notre Dame), one of a relatively small number of scholars who study the history of human thought concerning intelligent life on other worlds.  Crowe suggests that William Whewell (1794–1866), Master of Trinity College of Cambridge University, was the first person to envision the modern solar system.  From Copernicus up through the early nineteenth century astronomers assumed that intelligent life was abundant outside of Earth—and in particular, abundant within the solar system.  To use the language of the times, they believed in a “Plurality of Worlds” like Earth. Of course today we know that the solar system is not full of worlds like Earth.  We have so far found no extraterrestrial life at all within the solar system.  We do not expect to find any intelligent life here, and it is possible we will never find any extraterrestrial life of any sort within the solar system.

Click here to read Part I of the full article on The Catholic Astronomer – the blog of the Vatican Observatory Foundation.

Click here to read Part II of the full article on The Catholic Astronomer – the blog of the Vatican Observatory Foundation.

 

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