Russian Translation Blog is a place dedicated to Russian language, Russian culture, history, and everything related to Russia. The blog addresses interesting questions and discusses current and past events of the Russian history. Everything you read is written by Russian native speakers.
Translation Mistake That Caused Mars Fever
Is there life on Mars?
140 years ago, maybe for the
first time ever, scientists started to research the Red Planet, having assumed
that a civilization had existed there in the past. Mars owes such an increased
attention to a translator’s mere mistake. It was the translation mistake which caused the so-called “Mars Fever” all around the world.
Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory, St. Petersburg, Russia
This whole Martian mess was caused by an Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli. Almost 160 years ago, he worked as a
trainee at Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory which is located 19 km (11.8 miles) south of St. Petersburg. In 1877, Giovanni made a discovery which turned the world upside down.
Channels of Mars sketched by Giovanni Schiaparelli
The scientist discovered the structures which he called the
channels of Mars. He sketched the complete geometrical network of these
straits-channels or 'canali'. Italian word 'canale' (plural form canali) can be translated as 'channel' in English language.
During the publication of the newly discovered material about Mars, Italian translator had made a mistake and used the word 'canals' which mean 'channels of artificial origin.' Due to this mistranslation, the rumors
about the Martian civilization sparked.
The War of the Worlds
At the end
of XIX century, this novel by Herbert Wells had brought up the topic of an alien invasion. The War of the Worlds inspired fantasy authors for a hundred of years into the future. Wells
himself read too many newspapers. This topic was in the air at that time and
the existence of the Martians was taken for granted.
In 1911 “The New York Times” announced that 'Martians
Build Two Immense Canals In Two Years.' The society was shocked. It was shocked not with
the fact that the newspaper declared the existence of the Martians, but with
the fact that the aliens turned out to be far more technically advanced than us. For example, Panama Canal alone had been being built
for decades with a lot of difficulties.
Later on, someone thought – what if the canals were the Martians themselves. The gigantic sentient plants!
The Martian Boom still goes on; the missions have
been scheduled for decades into the future. We have not unearthed the mystery
of the Red Planet yet. Who knows which way the space exploration would have developed if it were not for that mistake with the Martian canals 140 years ago. For example, Sergei Korolev got into the space theme because he
dreamed about the flight to Mars most of all!