A Tour of the Human Imagination

by Eric S. Rabkin


As both an enduring object of curiosity and as a celestial embodiment of abstract ideas, Mars offers a fascinating and revealing focus for the historical understanding of the interplay of the physical world, the fanciful world, and the purportedly scientific world that grows from both.

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June 2005


Pages 232
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics The Arts/General
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What is Mars? From the ancients to the present, we have imagined Mars repeatedly and studied it longingly. As scientific knowledge of Mars has changed, so has the cultural imagination of this celestial neighbors. The earth-centered beginnings of astronomy connected the blood-red planet with the God of War. The Copernican Revolution and a later, simple mistranslation from Italian supported fantastic visions of distant Mars as the abode of life variously bizarre, ideal, or malignant. In the work of H. G. Wells and Orson Welles, in books, films, radio, and television, Mars reflected not only eternal hopes and fears but then-current political realities. In recent years, NASA-fication has brought Mars home, imagining the Red Planet almost as an eighth continent of Earth, a candidate for exploration and exploitation both in fiction and in fact. Rabkin weaves a chronological tale of many threads, including mythology, astrology, astronomy, literary criticism, and cultural studies.


  • More than 60 brief chapters focus on people, events, or phenomena concerning the eternal object of curiosity, Mars. This rich series of readable, illustrated chapters can be sampled at will for the fun of discovery, read sequentially as a connected history, or enjoyed as a resource for the contemplation. Featuring over 100 illustrations, this unique examination of humanity's most storied companion serves as a resource for the study of ourselves.
Table of Contents

PrefaceAcknowledgmentsRed Light in the Black SkyStarry NightAncient Egypt: Har DecherThe Idealized Solar SystemWhat Was A Planet?Mesopotamia: NegralAncient Greece: AresAncient Rome: MarsThe Sunset of MarsChanges in VenusMetaphorical MarsPtolemyThe Observation of the PlanetsAstrological SymbolsDays of the WeekAlchemyThe Mars SymbolNicolaus Copernicus: Reorganizing the UniverseJohannes Kepler: Putting Mars in Its PlaceGalileo Galilei: Questions of AuthorityEvangelista Torricelli: How Space Became EmptyChristian Huygens: Other Earths?Giovanni Cassini: Very, Very CarefullyIsaac Newton: One Big UniverseMars on Their MindsJonathan Swift: Imaginary TravelsWilliam Herschel: Stars and MarsThe Solar System TodayAsaph Hall: The Sons of MarsGiovanni Schiaparelli: Gaining in TranslationCamille Flammarion: Astrophile ExtraordinairePercival Lowell: A Glorious ObsessionPercival Lowell: Mapping Mars and MartiansH.G. Wells: The War of the WorldsH.G. Wells: Another View From MarsA World Ready to BelieveMark Wicks: A Lowellian UtopiaEdgar Rice Burroughs: Mars and AmericaMars: The Bar vrom BarsoomDead Mars?Orson Wells: The War of the Worlds BroadcastMarvin the Martian: Playing sith AliensRay Bradbury: An American FairylandGeorge Pal: The War of the Worlds AgainSpacecraft: Us v. ThemOff to CampChemosphereRobert A. Heinlein: The Martian SaviorEnter NASAMy Favorite MartianThe Age of AquariusThe Face on MarsMars Attacks!Leaving Earth BehindMars TodayPhobos and Deimos TodayMen Are from MarsThe Nasafication of MarsMars: The Eighth ContinentMarscapeTerraforming MarsRed RoverWater on MarsLand of Spirit and OpportunityAugust, 2003The Beagle Hasn't LandedA-Roving We Will Go



"[O]ften clever and even enlightening....Comprehensive collections."Choice

"[P]robes the ways in which Mars has influenced not only the field of astronomy but also mythology, astrology, cultural and literary studies, and more."Library Journal

"Mars has fascinated us since the time we emerged from the ooze and looked skyward. Both H.G. Wells and Orson Welles found it a source of inspiration, and were it not for Mars the television series My Favorite Martian would have to be called My Favorite Californian. Rabkin offers about 60 short chapters on the reasons why the Red Planet hangs over our science, our speculative literature (both good and bad), and our fantasies. He includes period illustrations of those involved, including Mars itself, and a nifty shot of Martin the Martian, foe of Bugs Bunny."Popular Astronomy

"[T]his book contains a wealth of information... In particular, the sections on early ideas, theories and observers such as Copernicus, Kepler, Cassini, et al, are very informative, and this book is worth having as a reference on the Red Planet."

"[A]n interersting, informative, and different perspective on the planet."B&F

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