In the history of science there are several interesting examples of obsessive ideas, when scientists tried their best to prove their unusual theories to the world. Percival Lowell succumbed to the influence of the Martian canals.
There is a civilization on Mars!
Northern polar cap of Mars from Percival Lowell’s book Mars and its Channels (1906, first edition).
Percival Lowell became seriously interested in astronomy in 1891. Rumor has it that as a gift from his aunt he got a book about Mars written by astronomer Camille Flammarion. The red planet so fascinated a young man that he decided to devote his life to studying.
After becoming acquainted with William Pickering, Lowell decides to create a large observatory in 1894, which will help to carefully study Mars and other objects. It should be noted that the observatory itself has really become an important stage for the development of astronomical science. After all, it was her staff who found Pluto and devoted much of their time to searching for the planet X.
The map of the Red Planet by Percival Lowell, printed in his book Mars and its Channels (1906, first edition).
Most of all Lowell was interested in the channels on Mars. The astronomer believed that the Martians still live on the Red Planet, but represented them in the form of winged developed beings. But he did not try to shock everyone with delusional ideas, but sought reasonable arguments in favor of the theory, describing in detail the climatic changes on the planet.
He believed that evolution on Earth and Mars was moving in one direction, but the Martians were ahead of us. Therefore, by their nature, humans and Martians should be similar, which means that both civilizations need food and water. And here the channels?
Lowell saw that the Martian surface was a dry desert. Therefore, he suggested that the channels were created artificially by the Martians and are used as a large-scale irrigation system. Where to get water?
An astronomer wrote that artificial channels allow the transfer of thawed polar waters to equatorial parts of Mars. He even noticed that at the moments of the Martian spring, the lines of the channels darken much faster than with the natural flow of the liquid. For Lowell, all this information was valuable and almost irrefutable evidence of the existence of intelligent Martians. Moreover, to search for life on Mars, he hired Vesto Slyfera, who, although he could not see the Martians, but he managed to determine the true nature of the "spiral nebulae". Percival Lowell tried to share knowledge with the scientific world. He traveled with lectures, and also wrote books on Mars about Mars and its channels and Mars as the abode of life.
Although some scholars supported Percival Lowell, most representatives of the scientific world were skeptical or negative about his ideas. However, the astronomer himself at the expense of the observatory, which is still working, has remained history. He could not see the Martians, but the efforts of the staff of the Lowell Observatory led to many surprising discoveries.