a digital library of Unitarian Universalist biographies, history, books, and media
the digital library of Unitarian Universalism
Home » Biographies » Lowell, Percival (1855-1916)

Lowell, Percival (1855-1916)

Percival Lowell

Percival Lowell, an astronomer, was a member of a Boston Unitarian family, which included his older brother, A. Lawrence Lowell, who became president of Harvard, and his sister Amy Lowell, the Imagist poet. Upon graduating from Harvard College where he excelled in mathematics, Percival Lowell visited Japan and Korea. He not only traveled but also played a diplomatic role and wrote four books about East Asia.

Shifting his interests to astronomy, he established the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona in 1894 and in 1895 wrote the first of his three books about the planet Mars. Although Lowell mistakenly concluded that Mars displayed evidence of intelligent beings, he awakened wide popular interest in the planet, including fantasy literature, War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells in 1898, as well as a riot-inducing 1938 radio broadcast declaring Invasion from Mars by Orson Wells.

In 1975 spacecrafts Viking I and Viking 2 were launched to study Mars—the longest surviving active laboratories on the surface of another world.

Although Percival Lowell did not live to see the reliable scientific evidence fulfilling his mathematical prediction of a planet beyond Neptune, Pluto was discovered in 1930.

Related Resources in the Harvard Square Library Collection

The Biography of Abbot Lawrence Lowell

The Biography of Amy Lowell

Notable in UU History
John Pierpont

Pierpont, John (1785-1866)

Upon the monument erected to John Pierpont in Mt. Auburn Cemetery is the following inscription—“Poet, Patriot, ... Read More
Thomas Hill President from 1862-1868

Hill, Thomas (1862-1868)

Biographical Introduction Thomas Hill, the twenty-first president of Harvard University, was confirmed October 6, 1862; and ... Read More
George Huntston Williams

Williams, George Huntston (1914-2000)

By Forrest Church, Senior Minister Unitarian Church of All Souls in New York City Recalling the Rev ... Read More
Witter Bynner

Bynner, Witter (1881-1968)

Biographical Introduction Bynner's mother's family extended to an early president of Harvard, Charles Chauncy. When Bynner ... Read More