Columbia Library columns (v.9(1959Nov-1960May))

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  v.9,no.1(1959:Nov): Page 9  

Early Space-Travellers


\ OME of you undoubtedly think of scholars as living remote
from the reality of the present. Yet historians are often less
startled than their contemporaries by spectacular inven¬
tions. Thus when the Russian dog Laika ascended into space and
many throughout the world joined the S. P. C. A. in protest, some
of us thought back to a day in 1835 when the balloon of the
Brothers A'lontgolfier rose perilously from the ground, carrying
into the air a cock, a duck and a sheep, the first living creatures to
fly by aircraft. My own thoughts went farther back, to a romance
published in 1638 by Francis Godwin, a Bishop of the Anglican
Church, whose imagination anticipated the Montgolfiers by nearly
two centuries. In The Man in the Moon, a tale that influenced
Cyrano de Bergerac, Defoe in Robinson Crusoe and dozens of
other writers at least down to H. G. Wells, Godwin imagined
a shipwrecked Spanish mariner, Domingo Gonsales, with his own
"man Friday," who trained the gansas (wild swans or geese) upon
his lonely island until they learned to carry weights. Upon a cer¬
tain day he harnessed to his ingenious contraption a lamb which
flew from one end of the island to the other. "The happiness of
that lamb," Godwin soliloquized, "I much envied, that he should
be the first living creature to fly." Domingo was to make a much
more remarkable flight when he harnessed himself to the gansas,
not realizing that this was their season for hibernation and that
gansas hibernate in the moon! Off to the moon he went, willy-
nilly, a gallant aviator of 1638 who reached the moon entirely by

From the rag-bag of memory in which I have collected scores
of such tales for my own amusement, I can cull out predecessors
for most of the animals that have been sent experimentally into
  v.9,no.1(1959:Nov): Page 9