Isis 96:477-506 (2005)

Over two decades spanning the turn of the twentieth century, astronomers’ claims about the landscape and climate of Mars spurred widespread scientific and popular interest in the possibility that the red planet might be inhabited. This essay offers a new explanation for the power with which the notion of an inhabited Mars gripped noted scholars and everyday citizens on both sides of the Atlantic. Rather than pointing to a rekindling of age‐old philosophical interest in the plurality of worlds, it argues that turn‐of‐the‐century scientific narratives about Mars derived much of their power and popularity from ties with the newly established discipline of geography. From mapmaking to travelogue‐style writing, astronomers borrowed powerful representational strategies from the discipline of geography to legitimize their claims about the red planet. In making the link between geographical and astronomical science more explicit, the essay further suggests that turn‐of‐the‐century representations of Mars could be productively recontextualized alongside geographical works produced in the same period
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DOI 10.1086/498590
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