Diagram of the planets, 1686

Diagram of the planets, 1686

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Credit: KING'S COLLEGE LONDON/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Diagram of the planets, from 'Entretiens sur la pluralite des mondes' ('Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds', 1686), by the French writer and philosopher Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle (1657-1757). This engraving shows the locations of Mercury (1), Venus (2), Earth (3), Mars (4), Jupiter (5) and Saturn (6). In 'Plurality of Worlds' Fontenelle suggested that life was widespread throughout the solar system, and that inhabited planets orbited other stars. His extravagant claims for extraterrestrial life ensured that his books sold well.

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