The Planet-Girded Suns: The Long History of Belief in Exoplanets

Sylvia Engdahl
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Interest in extrasolar worlds is not new. From the late 17th century until the end of the 19th, almost all educated people believed that the stars are suns surrounded by inhabited planets--a belief that was expressed not in science fiction, but in serious speculation, both scientific and religious, as well as in poetry. Only during the first half of the 20th century was it thought that life-bearing extrasolar planets are rare.

This is not a science book--rather, it belongs to the category known as History of Ideas. First published by Atheneum in 1974, it tells the story of the rise, fall, and eventual renewal of widespread conviction that we are not alone in the universe. In this updated edition the chapters dealing with modern views have been revised to reflect the progress science has made during the past 40 years, including the actual detection of planets orbiting other stars.

More poetry from past centuries, source notes, and an extensive bibliography have been added to this edition. In addition it contains a new Afterword, "Confronting the Universe in the Twenty-First Century," discussing the relevance of past upheavals in human thought to an understanding of the hiatus in space exploration that has followed the Apollo moon landings.
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Sylvia Engdahl
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Jul 28, 2016
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The Guardian's Best Science Book of 2017 One of Science News's Favorite Science Books of 2017

The fascinating science and history of the air we breathe

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Book One: Defender of the Flame
Starship pilot Terry Radnor is elated to be among those chosen to defend the secret colony Maclairn against enemies who pose a threat to the spread of paranormal human mind powers. He commits himself wholly to the goal of that world, not guessing how far his effort to protect it will take him from everything else he cares about--his promising career as a Fleet officer, his wife and soulmate, his unborn child. Torn away against his will, he is forced into exile from all that has previously mattered to him, without hope of a chance to fulfill the pledge he has made. Yet a mysterious and extraordinary destiny has been predicted for Terry, and fate leads him to an even dtranger one than anybody could have imagined.

Book Two: Herald of the Flame
As captain of his own starship Estel, Terry Steward, born Terry Radnor, is committed to spreading acceptance of psi powers and other advanced mind capabilities throughout the colonies of humankind. Barred from contact with Maclairn, he now journeys from world to world, heralding the hopeful future about which he alone knows the full truth. But the opponents of mind-power are gaining strength, and on Earth the persecution of people who develop new abilities is increasing. Soon targeted by bounty hunters, Terry risks everything that matters to him in a desperate attempt to defeat Maclairn's enemies, not guessing that if he lives long enough, he is destined for an even greater role in human history than he has played as a defender of its cause.
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