Sailing to the moon (1868); an Ancient Greek idea

A Voyage to the Moon (1868) by Gustave Doré

Jules Verne and H.G. Wells are often said to be the fathers of science fiction – and Mary Shelley the mother. Verne was more interested in scientific theories and technical details, whereas Wells and Shelley were less bothered about such specifics.

So much for 1800s, in fact you can go back a lot further to find early tales that could be considered as sci-fi.

‘A True Story’ is a novel written in the 2nd century by Lucian of Samosata (a Greek-speaking author of Syrian origin). It is the earliest known work of fiction to include travel to outer space, alien life-forms, and interplanetary warfare. Lucian develops the Greek notion that the moon is a mirror world to our own. Setting out on a voyage, the story-teller is caught up in a storm that propels him through the sky, and his ship ends up landing on the moon.

The wonderful illustration shown here is ‘A Voyage to the Moon’ (1868) by Gustave Doré (France, 1832-1883).

Some favourite moon and space quotes:

“There is nothing new under the sun, but there are new suns.”
― Octavia E. Butler

“I had aimed at Mars and was about to hit Venus; unquestionably the all-time cosmic record for poor shots.”
― Edgar Rice Burroughs, Pirates of Venus

“Everyone is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody.”
― Mark Twain

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.
― John F. Kennedy

“As different as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire.”
― Emily Brontë

I want! I want! (1793) by William Blake. A ladder to the stars.

Image of I want! I want! (1793) by William Blake

I want! I want! (1793) by William Blake (English, 1757-1827). The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, UK.

In Blake’s 1793 engraving, the poet and artist finds an inspired solution to getting to the moon: a really big ladder! Elon Musk could learn something. Or is this piece of art about something else? Seems quite apt for today.

Troublesome cough? Sleep the sleep of the dead …

'One Night Cough Syrup', manufactured in Baltimore, USA (1888). Ingredients: Alcohol, Cannabis Indica, Chloroform and Morphia

Troublesome cough? Introducing One Night Cough Syrup, manufactured in Baltimore, USA (1888). Ingredients: Alcohol, Cannabis Indica, Chloroform and Morphia. ‘Skillfully combined with a number of other ingredients’. I have no doubt that it put them to sleep, but did they wake up again?!


Eaten BY a dinosaur or eating IN a dinosaur? First = Bad, Second = good

Illustration of a New Year's Eve dinner inside an iguana

A lovely illustration of a famous New Year’s Eve dinner inside a iguanadon (1853). Present were paleontologist, R. Owen, paleoartist B.W. Hawkins – and various scientists and newspaper editors.

And here are my only two dinosaur jokes:

What do you call a short-sighted dinosaur? “Do-you-think-he-saw-us”
What do you call a short-sighted dinosaur’s dog? “Do-you-think-he-saw-us-Rex”

[Deafening silence, I’ll get my coat]

Photo of Edgar Allan Poe, writer

Photo of Edgar Allan Poe, writer

A photograph of Edgar Allan Poe, American poet & author (1809-1849). Posing between two friends. It’s wonderful we have a photograph of the great man, given that he died in the 1840s and the earliest known photograph to include the human form wasn’t until 1838 [in Paris, France]

“Take thy beak from out my heart, & take thy form from off my door!” [from The Raven and other poems]

Fascinating fact: Poe was obsessed with cats and often wrote with a cat on his shoulder.

Sir James Simpson and two friends, having tested chloroform (mid-1840s)

Sir J. Y. Simpson and two friends, having tested chloroform

‘Sir James Simpson and two friends drink liquid chloroform in an experiment, rather than inhaling the vapour. The shattered drinking-glass used by one of the experimenters lies on the floor.’ [Wellcome Images]

And here is a little bit of background. Chloroform was first created in the 1830s, but it was not until 1842 that Dr Robert Mortimer Glover (London) discovered the anaesthetic qualities of chloroform on laboratory animals. Then in 1847, the Scottish obstetrician James Simpson was the first to demonstrate the anaesthetic properties of chloroform on humans. As Simpson was an obstetrician presumably he hoped to ease the pain of childbirth.