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On Seeing the Great Wall of China from the Moon — 7 Comments

  1. Bill Higgins’s blog on the Great Wall of China being seen from the moon caught my eye. I do a lot of web-scouring, and so I’ve had a go at finding early references to this.

    I find that in 1910 there was some sort of syndicated new article about the Great Wall that appeared in many newspapers. Here is a sample:

    https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=950&dat=19100322&id=p8FSAAAAIBAJ&sjid=MH0DAAAAIBAJ&pg=4215,1338553&hl=en

    Googling on the text “miles including spurs arms and loops” (include quotes) turns up multiple articles, all around 1910.

    However, here is a still earlier reference — from 1895!
    /The peoples and politics of the Far East/ (by Henry Norman).
    https://books.google.com/books?id=O9JJAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA215

    If I find any earlier, I will post them.

  2. Yet an earlier reference — 1887:

    /Family Memoirs of the Rev. William Stukeley M.D./
    https://books.google.com/books?id=3PVaAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA142

    It turns out this question has been investigated before — this entry and the Norman example in my previous post are mentioned in a number of places on the web, including Wikipedia:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Man-made_structures_visible_from_space

    Here is one from 1854 — although not exactly the same claim.
    /Heroes and martyrs of the modern missionary enterprise/ (by Lucius Edwin Smith)
    https://books.google.com/books?id=HwYvAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA248

    • Christopher:

      Those links are great! Don’t you love the thrill of the hunt?

      In particular, the Stukeley correspondence may have been published in 1887, but the letters and diary excerpts were already over a century old. The one you cite on page 142, if I am reading it correctly, appears to be a copy of a letter from the antiquary Rev. Benjamin Peile (1716-1790), of Hexham in Northumberland, to the Princess of Wales. Peile had learned that stone from the Roman wall across northern England was being smashed into gravel for a new road. He was hoping to get the attention of someone who could put a stop to this. On 23 October 1753, he wrote:

      Surely it well became the wisdom of the legislature to act with great deliberation in so important an affair, especially in regard to the preservation of this greatest wonder of Roman magnificence, not only what is now left whole or in ruins, but that ever was.

      This mighty wall of four score miles in length is only exceeded by the Chinese wall, which makes a considerable figure upon the terrestrial globe, and may be discerned at the moon.

      This appears to push the Great Wall From Space Canard back a further century and a half! Suddenly, my discovery of the Canard’s mention in a 1937 book no longer seems an impressive find.

      Now I’m really wondering who originated the idea that the Great Wall could be seen from the Moon.

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