Speculation became fodder for a lot of imagination.
Speculation became fodder for a lot of imagination.

. . . or click on the link here for Audio Player – Is There Life On Other Planets? – December 19, 1948 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection

The persistent question throughout the history of our planet has been “are we the only ones here?”. With technological advances and interest in Space exploration, the questions over whether or not there were inhabitable planets, or even inhabited planets like ours in the universe started up in earnest after the close of World War 2. With developments in rocket design during the War, and the ability to leave the earths atmosphere a reality, the question was becoming not if we could do it, but what woiuld we find once we got there?

And speculation ran rife – it became the stuff of an exploding industry in fiction, with scenarios running the gamut, along with a heavy dollop of Cold War fear tossed in for good measure.

But it was still down to the nuts and bolts. We had to go exploring in order to figure out what was out there – and as of 1948, it was still all guesswork, with the aid of advances in telescopes and land-based observation materials, the best scientists could do was speculate.

So as part of their weekly discussion series, The Chicago University Roundtable ran a program where the topic was “Is There Life On Other Planets?” – guests on the panel included Gerard P. Piper of the Yerkes Observatory, who had been conducting studies on the character of light reflected from Mars. Professor H. Gaffan, biochemist from the University of Chicago, and Professor Harrison Brown from the Institute of Nuclear Studies, who had been studying meteorites.

This was the state of Space Exploration in the late 1940s. Aside from the romantic and fear-driven fantasies, there was also the wave of interest in UFO’s; belief that, maybe we weren’t ready to explore other planets, but other planets were coming to explore us.

The sooner we got out into space and figured out what was going on, the better off we’d be.

Here is that discussion from December 19, 1948 from The University of Chicago Roundtable.

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2 thoughts on “Is There Life On Other Planets? – 1948 – Past Daily Reference Room

    1. Thanks for the heads-up. By the way – have you made your contribution to the Spring Fundraiser yet?

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