This note accompanies the follow episode(s):
The Writer’s Almanac for March 13, 2017: The Presence

Mar. 13, 2017: birthday: Percival Lowell

It’s the birthday of American astronomer Percival Lowell (books by this author), born in Boston, Massachusetts (1855). Percival Lowell studied mathematics and history at Harvard, and he went to work in the family’s textile conglomerate. He wasn’t happy in Boston, though; he spent a good deal of time traveling, especially in the Orient, and writing about his travels. In the 1890s, he became fascinated with Mars; astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli had discovered what appeared to be canals on the red planet. Lowell decided to devote his fortunes to studying Mars, believing that the canals offered proof of intelligent life, and so he built a private observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. Even though scientists remained skeptical, Lowell’s vision of intelligent life on Mars captivated the public and had a huge impact on the infant literary genre that became known as science fiction.