Sunday, June 12, 2011

Voyage to the Moon - 17th Century Style

An old article from Skymania which is intriguing to say the least:
Incredible as it may seem, one of the greatest scientific minds of the time, Dr John Wilkins, a founder of the Royal Society, was planning his own lunar mission four centuries ago around the time of the English Civil War.

It wasn’t hot air either. Inspired by the great voyages of discovery around the globe by Columbus, Drake and Magellan, Dr Wilkins imagined that it would just be another small step to reach the Moon.

Wilkins, who was a brother-in-law of Oliver Cromwell, explored the possibilities in two books. Records show he began exploring prototypes for spaceships, or flying chariots as he called them, to carry the astronauts.

The Jacobean space programme, as Oxford science historian Dr Allan Chapman calls it, flourished because this was a golden period for science. Huge discoveries had been made in geography, astronomy and anatomy. Seventeenth century scientists were riding a wave.

The above also conincides with this one from the Telegraph: maps of the moon by Thomas Harriot pre-date Galilleo, and will be on display at the West Sussex Record Office in July (2009).
"The 17th century "moon maps" by Harriot appear to reveal that the Englishman preceded the famous Italian scientist in viewing the moon through a telescope. One of Harriot's drawings is dated July 26 1609, six months prior to Galileo's well documented achievement in December 1609. "

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