© 2020

History of the Plurality of Worlds

The Myths of Extraterrestrials Through the Ages

  • James Lequeux

Part of the Historical & Cultural Astronomy book series (HCA)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xiii
  2. Pierre Connes, James Lequeux
    Pages 1-29
  3. Pierre Connes, James Lequeux
    Pages 31-68
  4. Pierre Connes, James Lequeux
    Pages 69-83
  5. Pierre Connes, James Lequeux
    Pages 85-102
  6. Pierre Connes, James Lequeux
    Pages 103-142
  7. Pierre Connes, James Lequeux
    Pages 143-158
  8. Pierre Connes, James Lequeux
    Pages 159-178
  9. Pierre Connes, James Lequeux
    Pages 179-204
  10. Pierre Connes, James Lequeux
    Pages 205-241
  11. Pierre Connes, James Lequeux
    Pages 243-278
  12. Pierre Connes, James Lequeux
    Pages 353-392
  13. Back Matter
    Pages 393-406

About this book


Modern research has demonstrated that many stars are surrounded by planets—some of which might contain the right conditions to harbor life. This has only reinforced a question that has been tormenting scientists, philosophers and priests since Antiquity: Are there other inhabited worlds beyond our own?

This book analyzes the many ways that humans have argued for and depicted extraterrestrial life over the centuries. The first known texts about the subject date from as early as the 6th century BC. Since that time, countless well-known historical characters like Lucretius, Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Cusanus, Bruno, Kepler, Descartes, and Huygens contributed to the debate; here, their lesser known opinions on the subject are studied in detail.

It is often difficult for the modern mind to follow the thinking of our ancestors, which can only be understood when placed in the relevant context. The book thus extends its scope to the evolution of ideas about cosmology in general, as well as the culture in which these great thinkers wrote. The research is presented with the author's insight and humor, making this an easy and enjoyable read. 


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Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Verrieres BuissonFrance

Editors and affiliations

  • James Lequeux
    • 1
  1. 1.AntonyFrance

About the editors

Dr. James Lequeux completed his PhD thesis in radioastronomy in 1962 and was an assistant, then associate, professor of physics and astronomy at Paris University until 1966. He was an Astronomer from 1966-1999 and an invited scientist at CalTech from 1968-1969. Dr. Lequeux was also the Director of the Marseilles Observatory from 1983-1988 and was Editor-in-Chief of the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics for 15 years. He retired in 1999 and then began work on the history of astronomy, a subject he presently writes about. Dr. Lequeux has published over 403 papers and six books, including The Interstellar Medium (Springer 2005), Le Verrier: Magnificent and Detestable Astronomer (Springer 2013), and François Arago (Springer 2016).

Dr. Pierre Connes joined the laboratory at CNRS after his university studies in Dijon. There, he helped revolutionize the techniques of analyzing the light of the stars and was a pioneer in Fourier transformation spectroscopy. Connes was a long-time beloved friend of the Astronomical Society of Burgundy. He passed away on February 22, 2019 at the age of 90.

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title History of the Plurality of Worlds
  • Book Subtitle The Myths of Extraterrestrials Through the Ages
  • Authors Pierre Connes
  • Editors James Lequeux
  • Series Title Historical & Cultural Astronomy
  • Series Abbreviated Title Historical & Cultural Astronomy
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020
  • Publisher Name Springer, Cham
  • eBook Packages Physics and Astronomy Physics and Astronomy (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-3-030-41447-4
  • Softcover ISBN 978-3-030-41450-4
  • eBook ISBN 978-3-030-41448-1
  • Series ISSN 2509-310X
  • Series E-ISSN 2509-3118
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages XIII, 406
  • Number of Illustrations 28 b/w illustrations, 27 illustrations in colour
  • Topics Astrobiology
    History of Science
  • Buy this book on publisher's site


“I found this an engaging book, with a much wider scope than suggested by its title. The writing is lively and humorous, welcome when approaching some of the metaphysical and theological passages. The supporting apparatus, footnotes, two bibliographies, and index are thorough, and the production is good … . I am happy to recommend it, not just for specialists.” (Peredur Williams, The Observatory, Vol. 141 (1280), February, 2021)

“The book is well written, solidly produced, and infused with numerous color … . All things considered, this book is a good contribution to the literature and a fitting historical capstone to a stellar astronomical career.” (Steven J. Dick Ashburn, Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage, Vol. 23 (2), 2020)