Biography of Percival Lowell

By A. Lawrence Lowell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIII
MARS AND ITS CANALS

By the early spring of 1901 Percival was well over his illness, and fit to return to the Observatory for the oppositions of Mars in that year, in 1903 and in 1905. Shortly after he came back the services of Mr. Douglass came to an end, and he was fortunate in obtaining Dr. V. M. Slipher in 1901 and Mr. C. O. Lampland in the following year--two young men who were not only invaluable assistants to him, but during his lifetime, and ever since, have made distinguished contributions to science. Observing at all hours of the night was exacting work; and to anyone less enthusiastic, who did not see through the detail to its object, it might have been monotonous and wearisome. As he wrote himself, "Patient plodding is the road to results in science, and the shortest road in the end. Each year out here has seemed to me the best, which merely means that I hope I learn a little and that there is a vast deal to learn." He felt strongly the need of diligence and strict impartiality in ascertaining the facts, and distinguished it sharply from the imagination to be used in interpreting them. In describing his delineation of the canals he says, "Each drawing, it should be remembered, was as nearly an instantaneous picture of the disk as possible. It covered only a few minutes of observation, and was made practically as if the observer had never seen the planet before. In other words, the man was sunk in the

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