Lowell, Percival (1855–1916)



  • US astronomer best-known for championing the idea that Mars had artificial canals and therefore life. His books ‘Mars as an Abode of Life’ and ‘Mars and its Canals’ were his main works defending this idea, which led Lowell (a man of great private wealth) to set up a special observatory at Flagstaff, Arizona. He had outstandingly clear eyesight, and his long linear features on Mars were plausible enough to survive on maps for many decades after his death. They are now regarded as optical illusions and Mars maps produced from space probe photographs show little resemblance to Lowell’s Mars drawings. Some of his other work, including his Saturn observations, have stood the test of time better and the Lowell Observatory is a highly-rated centre for solar system science.