Skip to main content

Pioneering Concepts of Planetary Habitability

Part of the Advances in Astrobiology and Biogeophysics book series (ASTROBIO)

Abstract

Famous astronomers such as Richard A. Proctor (1837–1888), Jules Janssen (1824–1907), and Camille Flammarion (1842–1925) studied the concept of planetary habitability a century before this concept was updated in the context of the recent discoveries of exoplanets and the development of planetary exploration in the solar system. They independently studied the conditions required for other planets to be inhabited, and these considerations led them to specify the term “habitability.” Naturally, the planet Mars was at the heart of the discussion. Our neighboring planet, regarded as a sister planet of Earth, looked like a remarkable abode for life. During the second part of the nineteenth century, the possibility of Martian intelligent life was intensively debated, and hopes were still ardent to identify a kind of vegetation specific to the red planet. In such a context, the question of Mars’ habitability seemed to be very valuable, especially when studying hypothetical Martian vegetation. At the dawn of the Space Age, German-born physician and pioneer of space medicine Hubertus Strughold (1898–1987) proposed in the book The Green and Red Planet: A Physiological Study of the Possibility of Life on Mars (1954) to examine the planets of the solar system through a “planetary ecology.” This innovative notion, which led to a fresh view of the concept of habitability, was supposed to designate a new field involving biology: “the science of planets as an environment for life” (Strughold 1954). This notion was very close to the concept of habitability earlier designated by our nineteenth-century pioneers. Strughold also coined the term “ecosphere” to name the region surrounding a star where conditions allowed life-bearing planets to exist. We highlight in this chapter the historical aspects of the emergence of the (modern) concept of habitability. We will consider the different formulations proposed by the pioneers, and we will see in what way it can be similar to our contemporary notion of planetary habitability. This study also shows the convergence of the methodological aspects used to examine the concept of habitability, mainly based on analogy.

Keywords

  • Nineteenth Century
  • Solar System
  • Celestial Body
  • Planetary System
  • Giant Planet

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Buying options

Chapter
USD   29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-642-35983-5_6
  • Chapter length: 15 pages
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
eBook
USD   129.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • ISBN: 978-3-642-35983-5
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
Softcover Book
USD   169.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Hardcover Book
USD   179.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)

Notes

  1. 1.

    However, whereas Strughold was considered as “The Father of Space Medicine,” he was also unfortunately taken over by Nazis. He emigrated the United States after World War II.

  2. 2.

    Where tides drive volcanism that resurfaces the planet at least every million years; tidal heating can drive plate tectonics, including subduction.

References

  • Barnes, Rory, Brian Jackson, Richard Greenberg, and Sean N. Raymond. 2009. “Tidal Limits to Planetary Habitability.” The Astrophysical Journal Letters 700 (1): L30–L33.

    Google Scholar 

  • Barnes, Rory, Brian Jackson, Richard Greenberg, Sean N. Raymond, and Rene Heller. 2010. “Tidal Constraints on Planetary Habitability.” In Pathways Towards Habitable Planets, ASP Conference Series 430: 133–138.

    Google Scholar 

  • Briot, Danielle, Jean Schneider, and Luc Arnold. 2004. “G.A. Tikhov, and the Beginnings of Astrobiology.” In Extrasolar Planets: Today and Tomorrow, ASP Conference Series 321: 219–220, ed. Jean-Philippe Beaulieu, Alain Lecavelier des Etangs, and Caroline Terquem.

    Google Scholar 

  • Crowe, Michael J. 1986. The Extraterrestrial Life Debate 1750-1900: The Idea of a Plurality of Worlds from Kant to Lowell. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Crowe, Michael J., and Matthew F. Dowd. 2013. “The Extraterrestrial Life Debate from Antiquity to 1900.” In Astrobiology, History, and Society: Life Beyond Earth and the Impact of Discovery, ed. Douglas A. Vakoch. Heidelberg: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  • Darwin, Charles M.A. 1859. On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. London: John Murray.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dick, Steven J. 1982. Plurality of Worlds: The Origins of the Extraterrestrial Life Debate from Democritus to Kant. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dick, Steven J. 1996. The Biological Universe: The Twentieth-century Extraterrestrial Life Debate and the Limits of Science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dole, Stephen. 1964. Habitable Planets for Men. New York: The Rand Corporation, Blaisdell Publishing Company.

    Google Scholar 

  • Flammarion, Camille. 1862. La pluralité des mondes habités; étude où l’on expose les conditions d’habitabilité des terres célestes, discutées au point de vue de l’astronomie, de la physiologie et de la philosophie naturelle. Paris: Mallet-Bachelier.

    Google Scholar 

  • Flammarion, Camille. 1884. Les Terres du ciel; Voyage astronomique sur les autres mondes et description des conditions actuelles de la vie sur les diverses planètes du système solaire. Paris: Marpon & Flammarion.

    Google Scholar 

  • Flammarion, Camille. 1892. La planète Mars et ses conditions d’habitabilité—Synthèse générale de toutes les observations, vol. 1. Paris: Gauthiers-Villars.

    Google Scholar 

  • Flammarion, Camille. 1909. La planète Mars et ses conditions d’habitabilité—Synthèse générale de toutes les observations, vol. 2. Paris: Gauthiers-Villars.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fontenelle, Bernard (le Bovier de). 1686. Entretiens sur la pluralité des mondes. http://abu.cnam.fr/BIB/auteurs/fontenelleb.html.

  • Hart, Michael H. 1979. “Habitable Zones about Main Sequence Stars.” Icarus 37 (1): 351–357.

    Google Scholar 

  • Huygens, Christiaan. 1698. Cosmotheoros (The Celestial Worlds Discovered: or, Conjectures Concerning the Inhabitants, Plants and Productions of the Worlds in the Planets). London: Timothy Childe.

    Google Scholar 

  • Impey, Chris. 2013. “The First Thousand Exoplanets: Twenty Years of Excitement and Discovery.” In Astrobiology, History, and Society: Life Beyond Earth and the Impact of Discovery, ed. Douglas A. Vakoch. Heidelberg: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  • Janssen, Jules. 1929. Œuvres Scientifiques, recueillies et publiées par Henri Dehérain, vol. 1. Paris: Editions de la Société d’éditions géographiques, maritimes et coloniales.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kepler, Johannes. 1634 (original publication). 2003. Kepler’s Somnium, The Dream or Posthumous Work on Lunar Astronomy. Translated by Edward Rosen, New York: Dover Publications.

    Google Scholar 

  • Launay, Françoise. 2008. Un Globe-Trotteur de la Physique Céleste, L’astronome Jules Janssen. Paris: Vuibert and L’Observatoire de Paris.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lowell, Percival. 1909. Mars as the Abode of Life. New York: The MacMillan Company.

    Google Scholar 

  • Markley, Robert. 2005. Dying Planet: Mars in Science and the Imagination. Durham & London: Duke University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Proctor, A. Richard. 1870. Other Worlds Than Ours: The Plurality of Worlds Studied Under the Light of Recent Scientific Researches. New York: AL. Burt Publisher.

    Google Scholar 

  • Raulin Cerceau, Florence, and Bénédicte Bilodeau. 2011. D’autres planètes habitées dans l’univers? Paris: Ellipses.

    Google Scholar 

  • Strughold, Hubertus. 1954. The Green and Red Planet: A Physiological Study of the Possibility of Life on Mars. London: Sidgwick and Jackson.

    Google Scholar 

  • Vakoch, Douglas A. 2013. “Life Beyond Earth and the Evolutionary Synthesis.” In Astrobiology, History, and Society: Life Beyond Earth and the Impact of Discovery, ed. Douglas A. Vakoch. Heidelberg: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

Many thanks to Danielle Briot for her helpful comments, particularly those about the recent definition of the habitable zone as a result of the newly discovered exoplanets.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Florence Raulin Cerceau .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

Copyright information

© 2013 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg

About this chapter

Cite this chapter

Raulin Cerceau, F. (2013). Pioneering Concepts of Planetary Habitability. In: Vakoch, D. (eds) Astrobiology, History, and Society. Advances in Astrobiology and Biogeophysics. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-35983-5_6

Download citation