Winston Churchill wrote an article decades ago reflecting on the possibility of extraterrestrial beings called: Are we Alone in the Universe?. The article was recovered from the U.S. National Churchill Museum in Fulton, Missouri.
The essay is thought to be typewritten by Churchill in his home in Chartwell, England, perhaps intended as a popular science piece for a newspaper. The year was 1939, just a few weeks after Britain had entered World War II and the politician became a member of the wartime cabinet leading the country in the fights against Nazi Germany.
It was no long after the U.S. broadcast CBS radio drama “The War of Worlds” caused a Mars frenzy that seems not to have gone away ever since. Still today, signs of living creatures in other planets are still the subject of scientific research.
Churchill sent the article to his publisher, Emery Reves, and revisited it again some years later, even changing the terminology used in the title (from “Science” to “Universe”) to reflect the advances in understanding that had taken place in the scientific field during those years. The publisher’s wife, Wendy Reves, then passed the manuscript on to the U.S. National Churchill Museum around the 1980s, when the British leader was no longer alive.
Timothy Riley, Director of the museum since 2016, had recently uncovered the article from the archives and presented it to Israeli astrophysicist Mario Livio much to his surprise. As far as Riley’s knowledge goes, the 11-page essay was never published or examined by scientists or academics, until now. Livio reviewed Churchill’s modern thinking and his views on science and human values, as evidenced in the article and many of his other works.
“The most amazing thing is that he started this essay when Europe was on the brink of war and there he is, musing about a question about a scientific topic that is really a question out of curiosity,” said Livio in an interview, according to The New Your Times.
The author suggested that Churchill displayed a logical reasoning like that of scientists, showing useful skepticism while making assumptions that would be supported by discoveries that resulted in decades after.
According to Livio, Churchill was a science enthusiast. Between 1920 a 1930 Churchill wrote some essays for newspapers and magazine on topics like evolution, cells, and fusion power. He surrounded himself by scientists with whom he met regularly and sustained informative conversations.
In 1940 he became the first prime minister to appoint a science adviser, hiring his physicist friend Frederick Lindemann. During his mandate, he supported nuclear programs and the development of the radar, rockets, telescopes and other technologies through government funding.
The draft penned by the politician revolves around the idea that Earth cannot be the only planet positioned in what is called the “habitable” zone. The region from a star where it’s neither too cold nor too hot to allow liquid water to exist. Water is essential for all living things, Churchill noticed.
It explores the large possibility that among the vast amount of stars hosted by the thousands of millions of other galaxies that exist in the universe outside of ours, a big number of planetary systems could have been formed that have the right conditions to keep water on their surface and an atmosphere and quite probably harbor life.
Churchill also realized in his writings that the difficulty of interstellar travel and communication might make it virtually impossible to ever be sure if other planets house living organisms, let alone experience extraterrestrial encounters.
Literature Nobel Prize winner for his extensive body of work, Churchill concluded the essay with a contemplative remark and perhaps a pungent view of his times.
“I, for one, am not so immensely impressed by the success we are making of our civilization here that I am prepared to think we are the only spot in this immense universe which contains living, thinking creatures, or that we are the highest type of mental and physical development which has ever appeared in the vast compass of space and time.”