Newly discovered essay reveals Winston’s Churchill’s fascination with ALIENS

He may have had a lot on his plate leading Britain in a world war but Winston Churchill also had something else on his mind – ALIENS.

A newly unearthed 11-page essay entitled “Are We Alone in the Universe?” – written by the wartime leader – sees him muses about the possibility of life evolving elsewhere in the Solar System and beyond.

His article about alien life was written soon after the 1938 radio broadcast by Orson Welles dramatising The War Of The Worlds by HG Wells, which caused widespread panic among listeners in the US who thought they really were being invaded by Martians.

Winston Churchill was fascinated by the concept of aliens (Flickr)
Winston Churchill was fascinated by the concept of aliens (Flickr)

At the time there was much speculation about the possibility of life on Mars.

Churchill concluded that due to their distance from the sun, Mars and Venus were the only two places in the Solar System other than Earth that could conceivably harbour life.

With a nod to the grim events unfolding in Europe, he wrote: “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.”

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Astonishingly, Churchill pre-empted discoveries of extra-solar planets by more than five decades by defining what scientists later called the “habitable” or “Goldilocks” zone – the narrow orbital region where a planet is not too hot or too cold but “just right” to support life.

He also correctly believed large numbers of stars could have families of planets, concluding that many of them “will be the right size to keep on their surface water and possibly an atmosphere of some sort” and some would be “at the proper distance from their parent sun to maintain a suitable temperature”.

The essay – possibly intended for publication in Sunday newspaper The News of the World – had been hidden away at the US National Churchill Museum in Fulton, Missouri, since the 1980s.

Churchill believed there could be life on Mars (Rex)
Churchill believed there could be life on Mars (Rex)

The document was rediscovered last year by the museum’s new director Timothy Riley, who passed it on to Israeli astrophysicist, author and former Hubble Space Telescope scientist Mario Livio.

Describing the find in the journal Nature, Professor Livio said it came as a “great surprise,” despite Churchill’s well-known interest in science.

Churchill was the first prime minister to hire a science adviser, and in the 1920s and 30s wrote a number of popular science essays for newspapers and magazines on topics such as evolution and cells.

Top pic: PA