“I was working on a different project on Churchill’s paintings and discovered in our archives three essays by Winston Churchill,” said Timothy Riley, Sandra L. and Monroe E. Trout Director and Chief Curator of the National Churchill Museum.
The essays, dated 1939, are titled, 'Mystery of the Body,' 'River of Life,' and 'Are We Alone in the Universe?’ Churchill wrote them on the eve of World War II in 1939, just before becoming prime minister.
“He’s asking the biggest question of them all: ‘Are we alone in the universe?’” Riley said.
Churchill died in 1965, but the essays sat in an archive at the National Churchill Museum on the Westminster campus until Riley discovered them. He took it upon himself to ask faculty and visiting experts on campus for a science symposium to put Churchill’s thoughts to scientific scrutiny. What they determined was that Winston chose to believe in extraterrestrial life forms, but he did so scientifically.
“He answers that question using the scientific method defining what life is,” said Riley. “He says what’s necessary for life, water. Where can we find water, we have to have temperate zones like the planet Earth, and asks the question, ‘Are there other planets with similar climates’ and speculates that in the vast universe there must be other climates, Churchill concluded.”
Churchill wasn’t alone in his thinking. Many took notice when NASA recently announced the discovery of a system of seven Earth-sized planets around a single star some 40 light years away from Earth. That’s about 235 million miles away, outside our solar system.
“The fact that NASA scientists have now confirmed there are exoplanets (TRAPPIST-1 System) that have the same characteristics that Churchill himself describes in 1939 that may have climates that may have liquid water and habitable forms of life,” said Riley. “I think Churchill would be smiling.”