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When the news came of the discovery of gold at the south pole, nobody suspected that the beginning had been reached of a new era in the world's history. The newsboys cried "Extra!" as they had done a thousand times for murders, battles, fires, and Wall Street panics, but nobody was excited. In fact, the reports at first seemed so exaggerated and improbable that hardly anybody believed a word of them. Who could have been expected to credit a dispatch, forwarded by cable from New Zealand, and signed by an unknown name, which contained such a statement as this: "A seam of gold which can be cut with a knife has been found within ten miles of the south pole."
Garrett Putnam Serviss (1851 - 1929) was an American astronomer, popularizer of astronomy and early science fiction writer. Serviss was born in upstate New York and majored in science at Cornell University. He took a law degree at Columbia University but never worked as an attorney. Instead, in 1876 he joined the staff of The New York Sun newspaper, working as a journalist until 1892 under editor Charles Dana. Serviss showed a talent for explaining scientific details in a way that made them clear to the ordinary reader, leading Andrew Carnegie to invite him to deliver The Urania Lectures in 1894 on astronomy, cosmology, geology and related matters. With Carnegie's financial backing, these lectures were illustrated with magic lantern slides and other effects to show eclipses, presumed lunar landscapes and much more. Serviss toured the United States for over two years delivering these lectures, then settled down to become a popular speaker in the New York area. He also wrote a syndicated newspaper column devoted to astronomy and other sciences and wrote frequently for the leading magazines of the day. Serviss' favorite topic was astronomy and of the fifteen books he wrote, eight are devoted to it. He worked with Max and Dave Fleischer on The Einstein Theory of Relativity (1923), a short silent film released in connection with one of Serviss' books. He also wrote six works of fiction in his lifetime, all of which would today be classified as science fiction. Five of these were novels, and one was a short story. In his private life, Serviss was an enthusiastic mountain climber. He described his reaching the summit of the Matterhorn at the age of 43 as part of an effort "to get as far away from terrestrial gravity as possible."