Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Earth and the Moon–As Described in 1771

I am always fascinated by old reference books. I have mentioned before that I have a replica edition of the first Encyclopedia Britannica, published in 1771. I often read it to add to research about something much more modern. For example, there will be a full moon on August 23rd. Which is to say, the hemisphere of the moon that faces the earth will be almost fully lighted by the sun. The Pale Golden Marble in the sky will look especially beautiful for the few nights before, during and after the Full Moon, then the lunar cycle starts again. That reminded me of one of the sections on astronomy in my 1771 Encyclopedia. 

On the surface of the moon, because it is nearer to us than any other of the celestial bodies are, we discover a nearer resemblance of our earth. For by the assistance of telescopes we observe the moon to be full of high mountains, large valleys and deep cavities. These similarities leave us no room to doubt, but that all the planets and moons in the system are designed as commodious habitations for creatures endued with capacities of knowing and adoring their beneficent Creator.

As the earth turns round its axis, the several continents, seas and islands appear to the moon’s inhabitants like so many spots of different form and brightness moving over its surface, but much fainter at some times than others, as our clouds cover them or leave them.

By these spots the Lunarians can determine the time of the earth’s diurnal (daily) motion, just as we do the motion of the sun, and perhaps they measure their time by the motion of the earth’s spots, for they cannot have a truer dial.

The writer was not correct in his assessment of habitation on the moon or other planets in our solar system. However, what interests me is that he not only believed it, he accepted it as an easy concept to believe.

We tend to think most people of that era were so earth-centric they would not have thought there could be life on other planets or that any planet would have people similar to us.  The astronomy writer for the first Encyclopedia Britannica not only thought there was life on other planets, he could picture Lunarians using Earth to track time just as we use the sun.

In a way, I’m sorry we found out the truth. I like thinking of a Lunarian couple holding all six of their hands, sweetly kissing with their antennae, gazing into each other’s eye, then looking across at the Full Blue Marble. 

August 23rd, 2010 Posted by | Life and Work | 5 comments