"There is some rational creature in the other planets, which is the head and sovereign of the rest, is very reasonable to believe."
That sounds like a proclamation most people were hoping to hear during the recent Pentagon UFO briefing to select members of the U.S. Congress, but it was actually written over 320 years before than event by a Dutch mathematician, physicist, astronomer and inventor, who is regarded as one of the greatest scientists of all time. You may not have heard of Christiaan Huygens, but Jim Spencer has – he’s a book valuer who found a copy of “The Celestial World Discover'd: Or, Conjectures Concerning the Inhabitants, Plants and Productions of the Worlds in the Planets” in which the brilliant Huygens gives his ideas on extraterrestrial life. To say he was ahead of his time is an understatement. To say he was ahead of Pentagon’s UFO task force is a sad reality.
“The book tries to describe what extra-terrestrial beings might look like, how they spend their time, even what their music sounds like. It seems almost comical, but it’s informed by scientific reasoning, and who knows how our own thoughts on these matters will appear to people looking back in 324 years.”
The book will be auctioned on July 5 by Hansons’ Auctioneers and Spencer penned his thoughts and some quotes in the description on the web site. He found the book in Moreton-In-Marsh in the Cotswolds at a free antique valuation event and learned this was an English version – Huygens also published it in Latin. Illustrated with drawings of the planets known at the time, the book gives an eye-opening look at what a leading mind of the 1600s thought about extraterrestrials based on the scientific knowledge of his time.
“That they have Feet scarce any one can doubt…[unless] they have found out the art of flying in some of those Worlds.”
Like today’s descriptions of Greys and Tall White aliens, Huygens sees them having feet to walk around on and hands for picking up and holding objects, because he can’t think of anything more suited for the job, including an elephant’s trunk. Huygens saw aliens and extraterrestrial animals being standard in size no matter how big or small their planet is. And speaking of extraterrestrial animals, he believed life on other planets would be differentiated between “Man” and “Beast” just like on Earth. As an inventor, Huygens improved the design of telescopes and invented the pendulum clock, and he saw the aliens on other planets having similar scientific, intellectual and physical capabilities.
“If their Globe is divided like ours, between Sea and Land, as it’s evident it is (else whence could all those Vapors in Jupiter proceed?) we have great reason to allow them the art of Navigation…especially considering the great advantages Jupiter and Saturn have for sailing, in having so many Moons to direct their Course.”
In imagining alien beings, Huygens saw them living in environments similar to our own, so they would obviously have a need to sail across bodies of water (there were no cars or planes in his time) whose tides were affected by moons just like our own. In two ways, he gave the people of 1698 both hope and despair about their counterparts on other planets. On the hope side, Huygens saw them as good businesspeople and excellent party guests – able to hold conversations on their society and their enterprises, but also be entertaining and witty in topics of “Amours, Jesting, and Sights.” Speaking of entertainment:
“It’s the same with Musick as with Geometry, it’s every where immutably the same, and always will be so. For all Harmony consists in Concord, and Concord is all the World over fixt according to the same invariable measure and proportion…if they take delight in Harmony, ’tis twenty to one but that they have invented musical Instruments.”
Long before the first “Star Wars” movie, Christiaan Huygens imagined alien bands. Unfortunately, he also saw the dark side of humans in extraterrestrials as well – predicting that they would obtain wealth and power at the expense and exploitation of others, and that the driving force of innovation on other planets would be war.
“‘If Men were to lead their whole Lives in an undisturb’d continual Peace, in no fear of Poverty, no danger of War, I don’t doubt they would live little better than Brutes, without all knowledge or enjoyment of those Advantages that make our Lives pass on with pleasure and profit.”
How Orwellian Huygens was – he could not imagine advanced beings living in peace because pleasure and profit can only come from war and misfortune. That’s a sad commentary from a man considered to be the greatest scientist in Europe until Newton came around.
Experts are predicting “The Celestial World Discover'd: Or, Conjectures Concerning the Inhabitants, Plants and Productions of the Worlds in the Planets” will sell at auction for up to £3,000 ($3,756).