British Prime Minister Winston Churchill led his nation through World War II, but also had varied interests we know little about. He once wrote an 11-page essay revealing that he believed in extraterrestrial life. Was this an old college assignment? No, it was written in 1939, only a year before he was elevated to prime minister. The long lost article was only recently discovered at the US National Churchill Museum at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri.
At the time Churchill penned the essay, astronomers favoured a theory that had planets form when stars ripped material off one another as they swept past. Because such encounters were bound to be rare, he reasoned that our sun might be alone in hosting planets. But Churchill proved a good sceptic. “I am not sufficiently conceited,” he writes,” to think that my sun is the only one with a family of planets.” His intuition was right. Astronomers have now spotted thousands of planets beyond the solar system.
Step by step, Churchill reaches a view and expresses it a final sentence that mixes despair with optimism. He writes: “I, for one, am not so immensely impressed by the success we are making of our civilisation here that I am prepared to think we are the only spot in this immense universe which contains living, thinking creatures, or that we are the highest type of mental and physical development which has ever appeared in the vast compass of space and time.”
Churchill had an education grounded in science, and went on to hire the first British government science advisor and helped to fund British laboratories. The article is thought to have been intended for a newspaper, but was never published. Read more about this discovery at the Guardian. -Thanks, John Farrier!