Winston Churchill had something to offer besides “blood, toil, tears and sweat”: A willingness to consider the existence life on other planets.
A newly discovered essay called “Are We Alone in the Universe?” that Churchill started writing in 1939, just weeks after Britain entered World War II and before becoming prime minister, suggests that the possibility of sentient life on other planets was on his mind.
Churchill revised the essay in the 1950s, but it was never published. Sometime in the 1980s, it was given to the National Churchill Museum in Fulton, Missouri, and was discovered just last year by the institution’s director, Timothy Riley, according to the BBC.
Riley then let Israeli astrophysicist Mario Livio have a look-see for an article published Wednesday in Nature Journal.
In the piece, Churchill explains that life can survive only in regions where temperatures are between a few degrees of frost and the boiling point of water.
He then speculates that Venus and Mars are the only other planets in our solar system in that habitable zone.
However, Churchill also explains why life on other planets is more likely than not:
“With hundreds of thousands of nebulae, each containing thousands of millions of suns, the odds are enormous that there must be immense numbers which possess planets whose circumstances would not render life impossible.”
Churchill also refuses to be so arrogant as to think that humans are the highest evolution of sentient life:
“I, for one, am not so immensely impressed by the success we are making of our civilization 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.”
Livio told The New York Times he was impressed by the piece.
“The most amazing thing is that he started this essay when Europe was on the brink of war and there he is, musing about a question about a scientific topic that is really a question out of curiosity,” he said.
Livio and Riley hope others get to read Churchill’s piece, but it will remain unpublished until copyright issues can be sorted out, according to the BBC.