Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in
The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
As knowledge about the complexity of the universe has evolved over the century, so have notions about advanced life beyond Earth. Today the search extends far beyond the solar system. Seven decades ago, people were looking right next door. An excerpt from The Post of Oct. 24, 1928:
London, Wednesday, Oct. 24 (U.P.) --
A tired and busy radio operator in the central telegraph office inserted a carefully punched tape in an automatic wireless transmitter at 2:19 a.m., and Dr. Hugh Mansfield Robinson's serious and semiofficial attempt to communicate with the planet of Mars was under way at the cost of 36 cents a word.
A skeleton staff gave only passing attention to the busy machine as it clicked out the code words, "love to Mars from earth," and forced the dots and dashes out over the powerful Rugby Wireless Station.
Exactly eight minutes later three men sitting in the home of Prof. A.M. Low, one of Britain's best known young scientists and writers, received a long and mysterious wireless message in the Morse code. Prof. Low, who has encouraged Robinson's experiment but expressed skepticism, admitted that he did not understand the message, but Robinson claimed it was a reply from a high-powered Martian radio station -- probably one situated in Ookalonga, the capital of Mars, according to Robinson.
"It was very mysterious, but it is hardly likely that it was a message from Mars," Prof. Low said. "However, I must confess I do not know who sent it. One striking thing about it was that it was not an ordinary message. It was a long series of undecipherable dots and dashes. For example, at one time there were eleven dots followed by three dashes."
Dr. Robinson, who claims to have been in telepathic communication with Mars; Prof. Low and the London Daily Mirror representative heard the mysterious message at 2:27 a.m. (9:27 p.m., Tuesday, Eastern Standard time).
The second message "God is love" was dispatched from the Rugby station at 2:32 a.m., and started on its 35,000,000-mile journey to Mars. The government did not guarantee that the message would reach its destination.
Officials, in fact, insisted that the whole transaction was merely routine business, and in no way involved the postoffice department's belief or disbelief that the message could be received on Mars -- or that there was any one there to receive it. ...
Dr. Robinson said late yesterday he had been in telepathic communication with Mars during the afternoon and informed the planetary radio operators that a message would be sent them.
He said they replied to him by "shouting through a huge megaphone."
"It's wonderful the way these things work out," said the man who claims to have held numerous conversations with a Martian woman, Oomaruru, who has a "sweet face and big ears."