Long before 1961, when Yuri Gagarin and Alan Shephard became the first humans to journey beyond Earth's atmosphere, writers envisioned spaceflight and life on other planets. These authors, all born before 1900, took their readers to the moon ... beyond ... and into our future.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Faddey Bulgarin (1789-1859)

Faddey Venediktovich Bulgarin, son of a noble Polish family, was born near Minsk, Belarus on 5 Jul 1789. He died near Derpt (now Tartu) on 13 Sep 1859. His father, one of Kosciuszko's associates, was exiled to Siberia for having assassinated a Russian general.

Some of Bulgarin's stories were science fiction: "Probable Tall-Tales" is a far future story about the 29th century; "Improbable Tall-Tales" is a fantastic voyage into hollow Earth; "Mitrofanushka's Adventures in the Moon" is a satire.

Polly Cabell (1769-1858)

Mary Hopkins "Polly" Cabell, daughter of Joseph Cabell and Mary Hopkins, was born in Buckingham County, VA on 22 Feb 1769. In 1785 she married John Breckinridge with whom she had 9 children: Letitia, Joseph Cabell, Mary Hopkins, Robert, Mary Ann, John, Robert Jefferson, William Lewis and James Monroe. She died in Jefferson County, KY on 26 Mar 1858.

In her story "A Trip to the Moon", which was Published in Electra; A Belles Lettres Monthly for Young People (February 1884), a Dutchman who is preparing a giant cask of beer for the forthcoming Cambrinus' Congress is hurled out into space with the cask explodes. He reaches the moon, landing safely in a snow drift on the sice of an extinct volcano. As he wanders about, he sees that the moon is barren of life and he anticipates death from hunger and thirst. He shudders with horror, and awakens in bed back on earch. He had simply been knocked unconscious by the explosion. As the author states, "His beer was not his bier* after all."

*A bier is a movable frame on which a coffin or a corpse is placed before burial or cremation or on which it is carried to the grave.

Monday, February 17, 2014

John Herschel (1792-1871)

The Great Moon Hoax of 1835

Throughout the final week of August 1835, a long article appeared in serial form on the front page of the New York Sun. It bore the headline:

At the Cape of Good Hope
[From Supplement to the Edinburgh Journal of Science]

The article started by triumphantly listing a series of stunning astronomical breakthroughs the famous British astronomer, Sir John Herschel, had made "by means of a telescope of vast dimensions and an entirely new principle." Herschel, the article declared, had established a "new theory of cometary phenomena"; he had discovered planets in other solar systems; and he had "solved or corrected nearly every leading problem of mathematical astronomy." Then, almost as if it were an afterthought, the article revealed Herschel's final, stunning achievement. He had discovered life on the moon. 

Lithograph of "ruby amhitheater" for The Sun
August 28, 1835 (4th article of 6)
The article was an elaborate hoax. Herschel hadn't really observed life on the moon, nor had he accomplished any of the other astronomical breakthroughs credited to him in the article. In fact, Herschel wasn't even aware until much later that such discoveries had been attributed to him. However, the announcement caused enormous excitement throughout America and Europe. To this day, the moon hoax is remembered as one of the most sensational media hoaxes of all time.

Continued HERE ...

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

George Tucker (1775-1861)

American Politician, George Tucker, was the son of Daniel Tucker and Elizabeth. He born at St. George Island, Bermuda on 20 Aug 1775 and died in Albemarle County, VA on 10 Apr 1861. George married first in 1797 to Mary Byrd Farley who died childless in 1799. In 1802 he married Maria Ball Carter with whom he had six children: Daniel George, Eleanor Rose, Maria, Elizabeth, Lelia and Harriett.

In 1827, using the pseudonym Joseph Atterley, he wrote the satire "A Voyage to the Moon: With Some Account of the Manners and Customs, Science and Philosophy, of the People of Morosofia, and Other Lunarians." It is one of the earliest American works of science fiction, and was relatively successful, earning Tucker $100 from the sale of one thousand copies. It received positive reviews from the American Quarterly Review and the Western Monthly Review. Tucker used "The Voyage" to ridicule the social manners, religion and professions of some of his colleagues and to criticize some erroneous scientific methods and results apparent to him at the time.