Camille Flammarion

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Camille Flammarion
Camille Flammarion.003.jpg
Born Nicolas Camille Flammarion
(1842-02-26)February 26, 1842
Montigny-le-Roi, Haute-Marne
Died June 3, 1925(1925-06-03) (aged 83)
Juvisy-sur-Orge
Spouse(s) Sylvie Petiaux-Hugo Flammarion
Gabrielle Renaudot Flammarion
"Telefonoscope" from La Fin du Monde, 1894

Nicolas Camille Flammarion (26 February 1842 – 3 June 1925) was a French astronomer and author. He was a prolific author of more than fifty titles, including popular science works about astronomy, several notable early science fiction novels, and works on psychical research and related topics. He also published the magazine L'Astronomie, starting in 1882. He maintained a private observatory at Juvisy-sur-Orge, France.

Biography[edit]

Camille Flammarion was born in Montigny-le-Roi, Haute-Marne, France. He was the brother of Ernest Flammarion (1846–1936), founder of the Groupe Flammarion publishing house. He was a founder and the first president of the Société astronomique de France, which originally had its own independent journal, BSAF (Bulletin de la Société astronomique de France), first published in 1887. In January, 1895, after 13 volumes of L'Astronomie and 8 of BSAF, the two merged, making L’Astronomie the Bulletin of the Societé. The 1895 volume of the combined journal was numbered 9, to preserve the BSAF volume numbering, but this had the consequence that volumes 9 to 13 of L'Astronomie can each refer to two different publications, five years apart from each other.[1]

The "Flammarion engraving" first appeared in Flammarion’s 1888 edition of L’Atmosphère. In 1907, he wrote that he believed that dwellers on Mars had tried to communicate with the Earth in the past.[2] He also believed in 1907 that a seven-tailed comet was heading toward Earth.[3] In 1910, for the appearance of Halley's Comet, he believed the gas from the comet’s tail "would impregnate [the Earth’s] atmosphere and possibly snuff out all life on the planet."[4]

As a young man, Flammarion was exposed to two significant social movements in the western world: the thoughts and ideas of Darwin and Lamarck, and the rising popularity of spiritism with spiritualist churches and organizations appearing all over Europe. He has been described as an "astronomer, mystic and storyteller" who was "obsessed by life after death, and on other worlds, and [who] seemed to see no distinction between the two."[5]

He was influenced by Jean Reynaud (1806–1863) and his Terre at ciel (1854), which described a religious system based on the transmigration of souls believed to be reconcilable with both Christianity and pluralism. He was convinced that souls after the physical death pass from planet to planet, progressively improving at each new incarnation.[6]

In Real and Imaginary Worlds (1864) and Lumen (1887), he "describes a range of exotic species, including sentient plants which combine the processes of digestion and respiration. This belief in extraterrestrial life, Flammarion combined with a religious conviction derived, not from the Catholic faith upon which he had been raised, but from the writings of Jean Reynaud and their emphasis upon the transmigration of souls. Man he considered to be a “citizen of the sky,” others worlds “studios of human work, schools where the expanding soul progressively learns and develops, assimilating gradually the knowledge to which its aspirations tend, approaching thus evermore the end of its destiny.”[7]

His psychical studies also influenced some of his science fiction, where he would write about his beliefs in a cosmic version of metempsychosis. In "Lumen", a human character meets the soul of an alien, able to cross the universe faster than light, that has been reincarnated on many different worlds, each with their own gallery of organisms and their evolutionary history. Other than that, his writing about other worlds adhered fairly closely to then current ideas in evolutionary theory and astronomy. Among other things, he believed that all planets went through more or less the same stages of development, but at different rates depending on their sizes.

The fusion of science, science fiction and the spiritual influenced other readers as well; "With great commercial success he blended scientific speculation with science fiction to propagate modern myths such as the notion that “superior” extraterrestrial species reside on numerous planets, and that the human soul evolves through cosmic reincarnation. Flammarion’s influence was great, not just on the popular thought of his day, but also on later writers with similar interests and convictions."[8] Both George Griffith and Edgar Rice Burroughs are referring to him in their writing. In the English translation of Lumen, Brian Stapleford argues that both Olaf Stapledon and William Hope Hodgson have likely been influenced by Flammarion. Arthur Conan Doyle's The Poison Belt, published 1913, also have a lot in common with Flammarion's worries that the tail of Halley's Comet would be poisonous for earth life.

Family[edit]

Camille was a brother of Ernest Flammarion and Berthe Martin-Flammarion and uncle of a woman named Zelinda. His first wife was Sylvie Petiaux-Hugo Flammarion, and his second wife was Gabrielle Renaudot Flammarion, also a noted astronomer.

Psychical research[edit]

Because of his scientific background, Flammarion approached spiritism, psychical research and reincarnation from the viewpoint of the scientific method, writing, "It is by the scientific method alone that we may make progress in the search for truth. Religious belief must not take the place of impartial analysis. We must be constantly on our guard against illusions.".[9]

Flammarion had studied mediumship and wrote "We cannot trust the loyality of mediums. They nearly all cheat."[10] In 1898 Flammarion and Eugene Antoniadi investigated the mediumship of Eusapia Palladino and came to the conclusion that her performance was "fraud from beginning to end". Palladino tried constantly to free her hands from control and was caught lowering a letter-scale by means of a hair.[11]

After two years investigation into automatic writing he wrote that the subconscious mind is the explanation and there is no evidence for the spirit hypothesis. Flammarion believed in the survival of the soul after death but wrote that mediumship had not been scientifically proven.[12] Even though Flammarion believed in the survival of the soul after death he did not believe in the spirit hypothesis of Spiritism, instead he believed that Spiritist activities such as ectoplasm and levitations of objects could be explained by an unknown "psychic force" from the medium.[13] He also believed that telepathy could explain some paranormal phenomena.[14]

In his book Mysterious Psychic Forces (1909) he wrote:

In the 1920s Flammarion changed some of his beliefs on apparitions and hauntings but still claimed there was no evidence for the spirit hypothesis of mediumship in Spiritism. In his book Les maisons hantées (1923) he came to the conclusion that in some rare cases hauntings are caused by departed souls whilst others are caused by the "remote action of the psychic force of a living person".[16] In a presidential address to the Society for Psychical Research in October 1923 Flammarion summarized his views after 60 years into investigating paranormal phenomena. He wrote that he believed in telepathy, etheric doubles, the stone tape theory and "exceptionally and rarely the dead do manifest" in hauntings.[17] He was also a member of the Theosophical Society.[18]

Legacy[edit]

He was the first to suggest the names Triton and Amalthea for moons of Neptune and Jupiter, respectively, although these names were not officially adopted until many decades later.[19]

Honors[edit]

Named after him

Quotations[edit]

Flammarion engraving, Paris 1888, for Flammarion's 1888 L'atmosphère : météorologie populaire (p. 163)

"What intelligent being, what being capable of responding emotionally to a beautiful sight, can look at the jagged, silvery lunar crescent trembling in the azure sky, even through the weakest of telescopes, and not be struck by it in an intensely pleasurable way, not feel cut off from everyday life here on earth and transported toward that first stop on the celestial journeys? What thoughtful soul could look at brilliant Jupiter with its four attendant satellites, or splendid Saturn encircled by its mysterious ring, or a double star glowing scarlet and sapphire in the infinity of night, and not be filled with a sense of wonder? Yes, indeed, if humankind — from humble farmers in the fields and toiling workers in the cities to teachers, people of independent means, those who have reached the pinnacle of fame or fortune, even the most frivolous of society women — if they knew what profound inner pleasure await those who gaze at the heavens, then France, nay, the whole of Europe, would be covered with telescopes instead of bayonets, thereby promoting universal happiness and peace." — Camille Flammarion, 1880

"This end of the world will occur without noise, without revolution, without cataclysm. Just as a tree loses leaves in the autumn wind, so the earth will see in succession the falling and perishing all its children, and in this eternal winter, which will envelop it from then on, she can no longer hope for either a new sun or a new spring. She will purge herself of the history of the worlds. The millions or billions of centuries that she had seen will be like a day. It will be only a detail completely insignificant in the whole of the universe. Presently the earth is only an invisible point among all the stars, because, at this distance, it is lost through its infinite smallness in the vicinity of the sun, which itself is by far only a small star. In the future, when the end of things will arrive on this earth, the event will then pass completely unperceived in the universe. The stars will continue to shine after the extinction of our sun, as they already shone before our existence. When there will no longer be on the earth a sole concern to contemplate, the constellations will reign again in the noise as they reigned before the appearance of man on this tiny globule. There are stars whose light shone some millions of years before we arrived … The luminous rays that we receive actually then departed from their bosom before the time of the appearance of man on the earth. The universe is so immense that it appears immutable, and that the duration of a planet such as that of the earth is only a chapter, less than that, a phrase, less still, only a word of the universe’s history." — Camille Flammarion, La Fin du Monde (The End of the World)

Works[edit]

  • La pluralité des mondes habités (The Plurality of Inhabited Worlds), 1862.
  • Real and Imaginary Worlds, 1865.
  • God in nature, 1866. Flammarion argues that the mind is independent of the brain.
  • Récits de l'infini, 1872 (translated into English as Stories of Infinity in 1873).[20]
  • Distances of the Stars, 1874. Popular Science Monthly V.5, Aug 1874. Translated in English from La Nature. (available online)
  • L'atmosphère: météorologie populaire, 1888.
  • Astronomie populaire, 1880. His best-selling work, it was translated into English as Popular Astronomy in 1894.
  • Les Étoiles et les Curiosités du Ciel, 1882. A supplement of the L'Astronomie Populaire works. An observer's handbook of its day.
  • Uranie (available online), 1889 (translated into English as Urania in 1890).[21]
  • La planète Mars et ses conditions d'habitabilité, 1892.
  • La Fin du Monde (The End of the World), 1893 (translated into English as Omega: The Last Days of the World in 1894), is a science fiction novel about a comet colliding with the Earth, followed by several million years leading up to the gradual death of the planet, and has recently been brought back into print. It was adapted into a film in 1931 by Abel Gance.
  • Stella (1897)
  • L’inconnu et les problèmes psychiques (published in English as: L’inconnu: The Unknown), 1900, a collection of psychic experiences.
  • Mysterious psychic forces: an account of the author's investigations in psychical research, together with those of other European savants , 1907
  • Death and its mystery—proofs of the existence of the soul; Volume 1—Before death, 1921
  • Death and its mystery—proofs of the existence of the soul; Volume 2—At the moment of death, 1922
  • Death and its mystery—proofs of the existence of the soul; Volume 3—After death, 1923
  • Haunted houses, 1924

References[edit]

  1. ^ Which l'Astronomie?
  2. ^ "Martians Probably Superior to Us; Camille Flammarion Thinks Dwellers on Mars Tried to Communicate with the Earth Ages Ago". New York Times. November 10, 1907. Retrieved 2009-11-14. "Prof. Lowell’s theory that intelligent beings with constructive talents of a high order exist on the planet Mars has a warm supporter in M. Camille Flammarion, the well-known French astronomer, who was seen in his observatory at Juvisy, near Paris, by a New York Times correspondent. M. Flammarion had just returned from abroad, and was in the act of reading a letter from Prof. Lowell." 
  3. ^ "Flammarion's Seven Tailed Comet". Nelson Evening Mail. 30 July 1907. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  4. ^ "Ten Notable Apocalypses That (Obviously) Didn’t Happen". Smithsonian magazine. November 12, 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-14. "The New York Times reported that the noted French astronomer, Camille Flammarion believed the gas “would impregnate that atmosphere and possibly snuff out all life on the planet.”" 
  5. ^ Scientific Mythologies: How Science and Science Fiction Forge New Religious Beliefs
  6. ^ Reynaud, Jean (1806-1863) - The Worlds of David Darling
  7. ^ Camille Flammarion's Collection
  8. ^ Scientific Mythologies: How Science and Science Fiction Forge New Religious Beliefs
  9. ^ in "Death and Its Mystery", 1921, 3 volumes. Translated by Latrobe Carroll (1923, T. Fisher Unwin, Ltd. London: Adelphi Terrace.). Partial online version at Manifestations of the Dead in Spiritistic Experiments
  10. ^ Pearson's Magazine. Volume 20. Issue 4. Pearson Publishing Company. 1908. p. 383
  11. ^ Joseph McCabe. (1920). Is Spiritualism based on Fraud?: The Evidence Given by Sir A.C. Doyle and Others. London: Watts & Co. p. 14
  12. ^ Alfred Schofield. (1920). Modern Spiritism: Its Science and Religion. P. Blakiston's Son & Co. pp. 32-101
  13. ^ Camille Flammarion. (1909). Mysterious Psychic Forces. Kessinger Publishing. pp. 406-454. ISBN 978-0766141254
  14. ^ Sofie Lachapelle. Investigating the Supernatural: From Spiritism and Occultism to Psychical Research and Metapsychics in France, 1853-1931. The Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 94. ISBN 978-1421400136
  15. ^ Lewis Spence. (2003). Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. Kessinger Publishing. p. 337. ISBN ISBN 978-1161361827
  16. ^ James Houran. (2004). From Shaman to Scientist: Essays on Humanity's Search for Spirits. Scarecrow Press. p. 129. ISBN 978-0810850545
  17. ^ Raymond Buckland. (2005). The Spirit Book: The Encyclopedia of Clairvoyance, Channeling, and Spirit Communication. Visible Ink Press. p. 142. ISBN 978-1578592135
  18. ^ The Moon Pool - Introduction by Michael Levy
  19. ^ Camille Flammarion
  20. ^ French Tales of Infinity - Astrobiology Magazine
  21. ^ The Net Advance of Physics: History and Philosophy: Camille Flammarion

External links[edit]