The imagined inhabitants of Venus, 1884.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Engraving. There has been a long tradition of people believing that life exists elsewhere in the universe. This engraving shows a somewhat fanciful representation of the imagined inhabitants of the planet Venus. It was published in 'Les Terres du Ciel' written by Cammille Flammarion, a French writer who specialised in popularising astronomy. Flammarion wrote this work at a time when life on other planets was taken very seriously. There was a flourishing debate as to whether the apparently Earth-like planet Mars could harbour intelligent life. This no doubt influenced the author H.G. Wells, who in 1898 wrote 'The War of the Worlds', a science-fiction classic that has held the public imagination ever since.