Robert Freitas shares the story behind the Xenology.
Robert Freitas was still in college when he started his now-legendary handbook to alien life. Published in 1979, Xenology offered some of the first — and still among the only — serious academic discussion of potential extraterrestrial biology, culture, and more, including, yes, ray guns and orgasms.
It wasn’t just errant musings. Freitas, who would later make his name as an emerging tech researcher, winning the 2009 Feynman Prize for his work in nanotechnology, included more than 4,000 scientific references and laid the groundwork for a quietly expanding field.
Xenology is “the most comprehensive and systematic study of extraterrestrial life, intelligence, and civilization I am aware of,” philosopher Clement Vidal wrote in The Beginning and the End: The Meaning of Life in a Cosmological Perspective. “I consider it a rare scientific masterpiece.”
In an email with Inverse, Freitas took credit for laying out the first coherent discussions on various topics.