“If, as appears to be probable, vegetation exists on Mars, life has developed on two out of the three planets in our system where it has any chance to do so. With this as a guide, it appears now to be probable that the whole number of inhabited worlds within the Galaxy is considerable. To think of thousands, or even more, now appears far more reasonable than to suppose that our planet alone is the abode of life and reason. What the forms of life might be on these many worlds is a question before which even the most speculative mind may quail. Imagination, in the absence of more knowledge of the nature of life than we now possess, is unequal to the task. There is no reason, however, against supposing that, under favorable conditions, organisms may have evolved which equal or surpass man in reason and knowledge of Nature. And, let us hope, in harmony among themselves!”
—Scientific American, July 1943
More gems from Scientific American’s first 175 years can be found on our shiny anniversary page.