The Minor Moon Hoax of 1794

January 18, 2010

Interesting blog about the Great Moon Hoax of 1835 Moon in the Sun, an early account of life on the moon supposedly given by the astronomer John Herschell.

In looking for other accounts of that I found this involving his father, William Herschell in 1794:

The Old Farmer and His Almanack, 1920

The Great Moon Hoax

The second number of the Farmer’s Almanack, that for 1794, contained a paragraph of much interest:-

The Moon

[From a London paper]

Mr. Herschell is now said, by the aid of his powerful glasses, to have reduced to a certainty, the opinion that the moon is inhabited. He has discovered land and water, and is enabled to distinguish between the green and barren mountainous spots on the former, which, as with us, are divided by the sea. Within these few he has distinguished a large edifice, apparently of greater magnitude than St. Paul’s; and is confident of shortly being able to give an account of the inhabitants.

William Herschell at the time was investigating the moon, and would publish a paper a year later in which he speculated that both the sun and moon were inhabited. The author speculates that a reporter for the London paper had somehow heard of this before hand.

At all events, this bit of scientific gossip shows that the world was ready, toward the close of the eighteenth century, for something which, in fact, did not come until forty years later, the Great Moon Hoax.

The paper in question first published in Philosophical Transactions of 1795 is reprinted here:

The Gallery of Nature and Art, 1818

Nature and Construction of the Sun and Fixed Stars

…leads us on to suppose that it is most probably also inhabited, like the rest of the planets, by beings whose organs are adapted to the peculiar circumstances of that vast globe.