A Bostonian named Percival Lowell dove into astronomy in the 1890’s. He had worked in his family’s textile business and traveled to Korea on a diplomatic mission earlier in his life, but displayed interest in our solar system from an early age. The old P.L. was a supporter of Schiaparelli’s canalis theory and was aware that Mars was coming into opposition of Earth (when, due to its orbit, Mars is hopefully the closest to Earth it will get).
Listening to his heart led him to build an observatory in Flagstaff, AZ to allow him to observe the planet when it would be the easiest to see. And he got all up on Mars. He announced to the public that not only did he believe that there were canals (a mistranslation of Schiaparelli’s canalis), but that they were constructed by intelligent beings to provide irrigation for the martians. He mapped out his discoveries and gave lectures on the civilization that created this system.
It’s believed that he influenced authors to explore Mars as not only a place for us to reach, but a place from which we could be reached. Most of the time the Martians aren’t very friendly. I wish there was a way to know who/what Lowell had an impact on. Seeing a crazy fishbone diagram of what Lowell’s work effected would be so cool!
The Mariner 4 finally took the irrigation system idea off the table and really bummed out all the people who wanted a farming Martian as their best friend. Thanks, NASA!
Lowell had speculated that their was a planet floating around that was causing irregularities in the orbit of Uranus and Neptune. While he wasn’t the first to speculate about an undiscovered planet, he went after it with a fervor. His search for Planet X led to the discovery of Pluto by Clyde Tombaugh in Lowell Observatory. The observatory he built is still being used today, which is so cool! Check out their site if you want to see current astronomers there. Lowell had none of his own theories work out but set up others to make their own discoveries. That’s pretty neat.