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Section 7: Plurality of Worlds
Once the stars were scattered, they were celebrated as suns with their own satellites. Descartes' mechanism of vortices was only a part of his theory of motion published in 1644. It also included the concept of multiple solar systems derived from the ancient atomists. His influential philosophy, combined with his humble images of stars with satellites moving in a fluid medium, inspired many interpretations.
The arresting images of the Cartesian cosmos are fascinating testaments to a radical shift in the perception of the universe. They dramatically placed our sun among the other stars; it joined them in the heavens. In common with our sun, the other stars were given their own planets. The idea that other planets have similarities to earth encouraged a discussion of extraterrestrial life. Christiaan Huygens wrote in 1698 that "it's not improbable that the rest of the planets have their Dress and Furniture, nay and their Inhabitants too as well as this Earth of ours."

The stars as suns with satellites in the plurality of worlds. Pierre Louis Moreau de Maupertuis, Discours sur Les Differentes Figures des Astres., 1742.
Above, left to right:
* The discovery of craters on the moon and spots on the sun suggested that the celestial bodies had similarities to earth and that they may harbor life. Johann Scheuchzer, Phisica Sacra, 1734.
*Physical conditions on planets and moons were considered when discussing extraterrestrial life. Christian Huygens, The Celestial Worlds Discover'd, 1698.
* Leonhard Euler, Theoria Motuum Planeterum et Cometarum, 1744. The sun is shown among the other stars in the plurality of worlds.
Linda Hall Library of Science, Engineering & Technology
5109 Cherry Street, Kansas City, MO 64110
This exhibition is made possible by generous support from Mr. & Mrs. James B. Hebenstreit and Mrs. Lathrop M. Gates.