FLAMMARION, (Nicholas) Camille


FLAMMARION, (Nicholas) Camille
(1842-1925)
   French astronomer and writer. One of the first major popularizers of ASTRONOMY, he took great delight in the flights of imagination to which his studies in COSMOLOGY inspired him. In 1858, the year he entered the Paris Observatory as a student, he wrote an unpublished scientific romance, Voyage extatique aux reegions lunaires, correspondence d'un philosophe adolescent. His two major fascinations were the possibilities of LIFE ON OTHER WORLDS and of life after death, and these interests are reflected by his earliest major works: La pluralite des mondes habites ("The Plurality of Inhabited Worlds") (1862) and Les habitants de l'autre monde ("The Inhabitants of the Other World") (1862), the latter being "revelations" transmitted by the medium Mlle Huet. His most important work in the popularization of science was Astronomie populaire (1880; trans as Popular Astronomy 1894). He dramatized ideas from his earlier nonfiction book Les mondes imaginaires et les mondes reels (1864; trans as Real and Imaginary Worlds 1865 US) in three of his Recits de l'infini (coll 1872; trans S.R. Crocker as Stories of Infinity1874 US): "The History of a Comet", "Lumen" and "In Infinity". The second, consisting of a series of dialogues between a man and a disembodied spirit which is free to roam the Universe at will, includes observations about the implications of the finite velocity of light and many images of otherworldly life adapted to ALIEN circumstances. These stories were revised and expanded for separate publication as Lumen (1887; trans A.M. and R.M., with some new material, 1897 US). Notions taken from these dialogues were embodied in the REINCARNATION romances Stella (1877 France) and Uranie (1889; trans Mary Serrano as Uranie 1890 US; new trans Augusta Rice Stetson as Urania 1891 US). CF's boldest SCIENTIFIC ROMANCE, however,is La fin du monde (1893-4; trans anon as Omega: The Last Days of the World 1897 US), an epic of the future. Although it is as much essay asstory, this is a notable work, akin to H.G. WELLS's THE TIME MACHINE (1895) and William Hope HODGSON's The House on the Borderland (1908) inpresenting a striking vision of the END OF THE WORLD. CF's scientific reputation was injured by his passionate interest in Spiritualism (in later life he was an intimate of Arthur Conan DOYLE), but his was a major contribution to the popularization of science and to the literature of the scientific imagination.
   BS

Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. . 2011.

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