Edgar Rice Burroughs: Curiosity on Mars

So what does a postage stamp have to do with the successful landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars? According to one of the planet’s biggest Mars geeks, this incredible scientific achievement might not have been possible without the inspiration of recent stamp honoree Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Digital Color Postmark Keepsake (click image to order)

In a far-ranging interview, the late Ray Bradbury, author of The Martian Chronicles (1950), cited Burroughs as the writer who encouraged scientists to chase their Martian dreams.

“Edgar Rice Burroughs never would have looked upon himself as a social mover and shaker with social obligations,” Bradbury mused. “But as it turns out—and I love to say it because it upsets everyone terribly—Burroughs is probably the most influential writer in the entire history of the world.”

Bradbury enjoyed teasing snobs who cringed at the influence of science fiction, but he was making a serious point. Although Edgar Rice Burroughs wasn’t a scientist, his romantic visions of other planets sparked the dreams of generations of space explorers.

“I’ve talked to more biochemists and more astronomers and technologists in various fields, who, when they were ten years old, fell in love with John Carter and Tarzan and decided to become something romantic,” Bradbury said. “Burroughs put us on the moon. All the technologists read Burroughs. I was once at Caltech with a whole bunch of scientists and they all admitted it. Two leading astronomers—one from Cornell, the other from Caltech—came out and said, Yeah, that’s why we became astronomers. We wanted to see Mars more closely.”

Caltech, which manages the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for NASA, has already begun posting remarkable images from the surface of Mars, with many more to come. As we continue to “see Mars more closely,” remember what Burroughs bequeathed to us: a legacy of curiosity.

Tarzan™ Owned by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. and Used by Permission.

This entry was posted in Literature, Science Fiction, Space and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , by USPS Stamps. Bookmark the permalink.

About USPS Stamps

The Postal Service™ is proud of its role in portraying the American experience to a world audience through the issuance of postage stamps and postal stationery. Each year the Postal Service issues commemorative stamps reflecting subjects of national significance and appeal. More than 160 years of stamp development has yielded an incredible archive of imagery and commentary reflecting American culture and society. Even in this fast-changing world, stamps are still a versatile and convenient method of postage. And stamp collecting is a lifetime hobby that is fun and educational for all ages. Stamp collecting is easy to start without a big investment. It is also a great way to learn about the world and its many wonders, opening the door to an exciting universe of history, science, geography, the arts, technology, and sports. Our mission is to provide universal service that is prompt, reliable, efficient, affordable, and self-sustaining. Throughout its history the Postal Service has grown with the nation, binding it together by ensuring that everyone, everywhere, has the same ability to communicate regardless of technological change.