Churchill on exoplanets


In a recently discovered essay by Winston Churchill his thoughts on extraterrestrial life are revealed.  In view of today's knowledge of the existence of exoplanets, they stand out as surprisingly correct and in line with current thinking.

It is astrophysicist and author Mario Livio who came across a popular science paper that Churchill wrote in 1939.  It was never published and as late as in the late 1950s he was still modifying it.

Churchill was a great believer in science and technology, although he is also quoted as saying "we need scientists in the world - but not a world of scientists", indicating that without humanities scientists may go astray.

In the essay Churchill describes his belief that humankind cannot possibly represent the only intelligence in the universe. He argues (in 1939!) that there should be large numbers of worlds not unlike the Earth, with its suitable position in the solar system allowing for liquid water.    

Although the dominating theory at the time concerning formation of planetary systems involved rare close encounters between stars, he nevertheless noted the great number of double stars, pointing at an alternative (and more correct) process for planet formation.

Churchill evidently was very well informed of the status of astronomy in the 1930s. However, something else hampered his potential career as a popular science writer...


More information:

"Winston Churchill’s essay on alien life found" , by Mario Livio in Nature Feb 15, 2017 (PDF)