"On the Martians Signalling Earth"

A shocking claim followed by a denial.

During his 1902 visit to the United States, a report circulated that stated Lord Kelvin proclaimed himself in complete agreement with Nikola Tesla on two controversial issues: 1) that Mars was signalling America and 2) that the conservation of nonrenewable resources was of critical importance to the earth. It was also claimed that he said the reason Mars was signalling New York and not England was because NY was "the most marvellous lighted city in the world" and the only place visible from Mars.

(Later mentions of these claims give as a citation the Philadelphia North American, "Lord Kelvin Believes Mars Is Signalling America", May 18, 1902. Mag. Sec. V. I haven't seen this yet, so I don't know exactly how he is quoted.)

An earlier report (The New York Times, May 9, 1902, p.2.) of the dinner given in his honor at Delmonico's (where he was reported to have made his proclamations):

[Lord Kelvin] said he had been very much impressed with the new Riverside station of the New York Edison Company, and declared that New York was the best lighted city in the world. He felt tempted to say it was the best-lighted in the universe, but he did not know enough about the lighting systems of Mars.

Just before departing America, Lord Kelvin denied the Martian signalling claim (The New York Times, May 11, 1902, p.29.):

"There is one thing I wish to emphatically deny, and that is the absurd report which quoted me as saying that the planet Mars was signalling to New York. What I really said was that the inhabitants of Mars, if there are any, were doubtless able to see New York, particularly the glare of the electricity."

Another report (The Racine Journal, June 13, 1902, p. 5.) has him adding:

"And I am also of the opinion that electricity is known and understood by them [the Martians]."

Also of interest is the 1898 story Edison's Conquest of Mars by Garrett P. Serviss, which includes Lord Kelvin as a character during War of the Worlds II.