Life in the Universe

Searching For Intelligent Life

Who pioneered the scientific search for extraterrestrial intelligence?

The American astronomer Frank Drake (1930–) is widely considered to be the first person to pursue the scientific search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Drake grew up in Chicago and earned his degrees at Cornell University and at Harvard University. In 1960 he conducted his first search for extraterrestrial intelligence by using radio telescopes—an endeavor called Project Ozma. He co-organized the first scientific conference on SETI, was instrumental in creating the SETI Institute, and was the first person to conceive what is now known as the Drake Equation.

When asked what motivated his interest in SETI, Drake answered, “I’m just curious. I like to explore and find out what things exist. And as far as I know, the most fascinating, interesting thing you could find in the universe is not another kind of star or galaxy or something, but another kind of life.”

The Hat Creek Allen Telescope Array near Mount Shasta, California, is part of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) program.


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