Finished “A Princess of Mars”

I actually finished this book yesterday.  Easy, light, escapist adventure.  Burroughs certainly had a great imagination.  It is interesting to note that this novel was written when little was known about Mars, and much of what was “known” was wrong, based upon inaccurate observations.  Principal of those observers was the remarkable Percival Lowell (of the Massachusetts Lowells).  He was obsessed with Mars, and even built an observatory (the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona) just so he could satisfy his obsession.  I actually visited there many years ago during a family vacation/camping trip.  (below is a famous photo of Lowell at work)

Lowell’s obsession led him to see ‘canals’ on Mars that didn’t exist.  It’s a somewhat famous story that he was ‘led’ to see them by learning of the Italian astronomer, Giovanni Schiaparelli, who had noted his observation of ‘canali’ (Italian for ‘channel,’ as I understand) on Mars. Due to a quirk of translation – or lack of translation – many, including Lowell, assumed the meaning to be artificially constructed “canals” as opposed to naturally occurring channels.  Lowell believed the canals to be a planet-wide engineering project of a ‘dying race’ trying to keep their planet alive.  Quite a leap, but perhaps not uncommon in that day and age.

The Lowell Observatory:

And finally, Giovanni Schiaparelli:

I will probably read some more of Burroughs’s Barsoom (the name by which his Martians call their planet) series, whenever I need to take a break from ‘heavier’ stuff…

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