ArticlePDF Available

SOLAR CYCLE, MAUNDER MINIMUM AND PANDEMIC INFLUENZA. Published in JOURNAL OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES & CASE REPORTS 1(4), pp.1-4, 2020, United Kingdom. We present for the first time correlations between the Maunder Minimum times (1618-1723) and historical pandemic influenza events.Curiously, during the entire XVII Century (Maunder Minimum times) there were no reports of influenza type A pandemics on Earth. This research was self funded by the authors.

  • The Planetary Society Pasadena California USA

Abstract and Figures

We report the time co-relation of 500 years of data of solar magnetic Sunspot cycles and events of historical influenza type A pandemics. During the XVIII, XIX and XX Centuries most of the influenza pandemic events occurred during or close to Sunspot maximums. We present for the first time historical information and data of the Maunder Minimum (1618-1723) when no Sunspot activity cycles were present in the Sun. Curiously, during the entire XVII Century (Maunder Minimum time included) there were no reports of influenza type A pandemics on Earth. We present some tentative explanations for this amazing co-relation. For example; mutagenic X-rays coming from the Sun during Sunspot maximums could induce the antigenic shifts in the influenza A virus. This research was self funded by the authors.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Review Article Open Access
Solar Cycle, Maunder Minimum and Pandemic Inuenza
1Buckingham Centre for Astrobiology, University of Buckingham, UK
2Centre for Astrobiology, University of Ruhuna, Matara, Sri Lanka
3National Institute of Fundamental Studies, Kandy, Sri Lanka
4Institute for the Study of Panspermia and Astroeconomics, Gifu, Japan
5Mendoza 2779-16A, Ciudad de Buenos Aires, Argentina
6History of Chinese Science and Culture Foundation Conway Hall, London, UK
N Chandra Wickramasinghe1,2,3,4, Maximiliano CL Rocca5, Gensuke Tokoro4 and Robert Temple6
*Corresponding author
NC Wickramasinghe, Buckingham Centre for Astrobiology, University of Buckingham, UK, E-mail:
Received: December 23 2020; Accepted: December 28, 2020; Published: December 30, 2020
Journal of Infectious Diseases &
Case Reports
Volume 1(4): 1-4
Keywords: Panspermia, Inuenza, Viruses, Kordylewski Clouds,
Maunder Minimum, Sunspot Cycle
The etymology of the word inuenza immediately connects with
astronomy. Derived from Latin word inuentia, meaning “to ow
into” it seems to have been rst used from early medieval times to
describe an epidemic disease that we now recognise as inuenza.
It was believed to be caused by an invisible uid that emanated
from the stars causing a disease that intermittently ripped through
the human population. In 1743 Italians experienced an epidemic
that spread across much of Europe, and called it inuenza di
catarro (“ow of catarrh”). Thereafter the disease came to be
known in English simply as “inuenza” [1]. A viral cause of the
disease was securely established only after the 1930’s, but many
mysteries concerning its epidemiology, and in particular the times
of occurrence of pandemics, still remain unresolved [2,3]. In this
paper we explore further a possible link between an aspect of the
behaviour of our local star the sun–the sunspot cycle, and the
emergence of pandemic inuenza.
Sunspot Cycle
Despite nearly half a century of research on a wide range of aspects
of solar physics, it is fair to say that our parent star still holds many
of its secrets. The sun’s dipole magnetic eld reverses polarity
every 11 years, the switch happening close to the maximum of
each 11-year solar cycle. During each eld reversal event the sun’s
polar magnetic eld strength will weaken until it reaches zero and
thereafter begin to recover with the opposite polarity. This eld
reversal appears to be closely related to sunspot activity and has
an effect on interplanetary magnetic elds and in particular the
elds that connect the sun and planets including the Earth. An early
model to explain the process of eld reversal involving an Ohmic
dissipation model was proposed by Hoyle and Wickramasinghe
as early as 1961, but since then no signicant advances in our
understanding appear to have been made [4]. On the other hand,
space exploration over the past decade has unravelled the changing
conguration of a magnetic bubble that surrounds the Earth (the
magnetopause) as it is buffeted by a varying ux of protons,
positively charged ions and electrons from the solar wind.
The Sunspot cycle has an average period of very close to 11
years. Individual cycles could be longer or shorter by an average
of 1.5 years, and over a much longer time interval periods of
remission (with very few spots or no spots) can be seen over
extended intervals. Two protracted minima of the sunspot cycle
are on record since sunspot data rst began to be recorded – the
Maunder minimum (1645-1715 CE) and the Dalton minimum
(1800-1830 CE). Both these minima have been marked by a
preponderance of pandemics of various kinds – Small Pox,
English Sweats, Plague and Cholera [5]. In this article we discuss
a possible connection between the sunspot cycle and the incidence
of pandemic inuenza.
J Infect Dis Case Rep, 2020
We explore the idea that inuenza pandemics may arise from the transference of new virions (new sub-types of the inuenza virus) of cosmic origin in
general accord with the theory of cometary panspermia. Such a transfer process will be modulated by the sunspot cycle and through its role in aecting the
interplanetary magnetic eld congurations in the Earth’s vicinity. Transfers of virus could take place directly from comets or indirectly from a transient
repository represented for instance by the Kordylewski if dust clouds at the L4 and L5 Lagrange libration points of the Earth-Moon system. In either case
an active sun appears to be a perequisite for eective transfers. e long remission of inuenza pandemics throughout the period 1645-1715, during the
Maunder sunspot minimum, might be understood on the basis of our model.
ISSN: 2634 - 8861
Volume 1(4): 2-4
A discussion in general of a possible link between solar activity and
epidemics of viral disease hinges of the theory of the origin and
evolution of life developed by Fred Hoyle and one of us from the
late 1970’s and which is currently looking to be increasingly more
plausible. This theory of cometary panspermia has comets playing
a crucial role–cometary dust and debris carrying bacteria and
viruses are required for both the origin and subsequent evolution
of life [3].
Cosmic biology and evolution
There is now much evidence to support the view that our genetic
inheritance may be comprised of DNA actually delivered through
interaction with viruses [6]. In human DNA this shows up as
LINEs (Long Interspersed Nuclear Elements, 21%), and SINEs
(Short Interspersed Nuclear Elements, 13%) which are derived
from retroviruses, HERVs (Human Endogenous Retroviruses)
and LTRs (Long Terminal Repeats, 9%).
In a recent paper we discussed the possibility that the dening
characteristics of Homo sapiens may have been introduced into
ancestral Anthropoidea primates 35-40 million years ago when
the Earth was being showered with cometary debris carrying
viral genetic material [7]. Further genetic developments along
our ancestral lineage appear to have been punctuated by a series
of repeated viral or retroviral pandemics presumably similar to
the AIDS virus. In each such pandemic the entire evolving line
may have been culled save for a small surviving number carrying
ERVs (Endogenous retroviruses) that have retained the potential to
introduce novel traits. This feature is clearly seen at each branching
point of a reconstructed evolutionary tree as shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Evolution and branching of hominid lineage marked
by retroviral inserts at crucial branching points
Although the long-term evolutionary role of the inuenza virus is
unknown, it is an instance of yet another virus that may conceivably
have a long-term effect on evolution and could thus be interpreted
as part of a cosmic milieu of viruses.
Kordylewski Dust Clouds
The principal mode of introduction of viruses of cosmic origin that
could be involved in evolution has been argued to be comets–comets
in our own solar system, combined with intermittent involvement
of exo-comets, or comets stripped away from exoplanetary systems
that could gain ingress into the inner solar system. The recent comet
Oumuamua (A/2017U1) in a hyperbolic orbit may well fall into
this category. In a recent paper two of the present authors discussed
recent astronomical data that led to the conrmation of the existence
of the hitherto disputed “Kordylewski Dust Clouds” located at the
L4 and L5 Lagrange points of the Earth-Moon system ~ 400,000km
from the Earth [8].
The new data yielded reliable estimates of the size of the
Kordylewski Dust cloud at L5 as well as the average radii of
the individual scattering/polarizing dust particles in the cloud’s
interior. The diameter of the cloud was estimated to be somewhat
less than 3 times the Earth’s diameter, ~ 40,000km, and the average
radius of dust grains in the clouds was estimated at ~ 3 x 10-
5cm. This is consistent with bacterial-type cells, with a mean
separation of less than 1 cm. There can be little doubt that these
Kordylewski clouds can serve as an ideal repository for mopping
up cosmic bacteria and viruses that approach the Earth-Moon
system. The temperature of unshielded dust in the outer layers of
the clouds would be about minus 20 degrees C, but even lower in
shielded interior regions within the clouds. These conditions make
it possible to cryopreserve microbiota under anaerobic conditions
for considerable lengths of time.
We have not previously explored the possibility that panspermic
events that might lead to pandemics might involve the transference
to Earth of microbiota–bacteria and/or viruses-from these relatively
nearby clouds. This process could plausibly be driven by the
sunspot cycle and the effects of solar winds that could disrupt and
peel off the outer layers of these clouds. During prolonged periods
of a quiescent sun this particular mechanism for the introduction
of bacteria or virions to the Earth is likely to be interrupted thus
leading to a halting of some types of pandemics. In the next section
we make a case for arguing that inuenza pandemics may well
fall in this category.
Inuenza pandemics
Inuenza is a viral disease in humans that occurs both seasonally
and as major pandemic events. We refer here to pandemics of
inuenza which can be interpreted as the introduction/emergence
of a new sub-type of the virus to which the entire human population
has no immunity. The possible time-correlation between the viral
inuenza (type A) pandemics and the Sunspot cycle was explored
by Hope-Simpson and Hoyle and Wickramasinghe [3-11]. A
causal link between the peaks of conrmed or probable inuenza
pandemics and peaks of the sunspot cycle appears at rst sight
to be strong, although later studies by Qu discuss cases where
pandemics also occur closer to the troughs of the cycle in a few
instances [12]. The pandemics occuring close to the peaks of the
sunspot cycle may arguably refect the inuence of solar X-ray
emission that also peaks near sunspot maxima and may have
mutagenic effects on incoming viruses. A more likely connection
could be in the electrical elds associated with auroral activity that
also peaks at sunspot maxima. Charged inuenza virions could
have rapid entry into the polar atmosphere along electric elds
[3]. On the other hand the relatively few viral pandemics found
to occur near sunspot minima may reect the relativedly free
access of charged inuenza virions across all geographic latitudes,
unfettered by the magnetic shielding of the Earth that is weaker
at such times. The distinction between minor modications of an
already circulating endemic inuenza subtype on the one hand,
and the introduction of new subypes or recombinant subtypes
on the other confuse the issue between two competing processes
that may be at work.
In our model of a cosmically driven biological evolution process,
access to new viruses is dependent on the viral/microbial
environment through which the Earth moves through space. A
variable viral input could arise from interactions which different
comets within the solar system, as well as via encounters with
extrasolar comets that may add to the dust/viral content of the
interplanetary medium through which the Earth moves.
Citation: NC Wickramasinghe, et al (2020) Solar Cycle, Maunder Minimum and Pandemic Inuenza. Journal of Infectious Diseases & Case Reports SRC/JIDSCR-143.
Volume 1(4): 3-4J Infect Dis Case Rep, 2020
The Maunder Minimum
The Maunder Minimum, also known as the “prolonged sunspot
minimum”, is the name used to describe the period around
years 1645 to 1715. During this entire period sunspots became
exceedingly rare and so also the sightings of auroral events [13].
Solar activity had been inferred at earlier times in the “proxy”
record of 14C and 10Be. High uxes of neutrons arising from the
decay of cosmic ray protons (which are more prevalent during
sunspot minima) cause the production of 14C and 10Be which
is deposited in ice cores; so the prevalence of these nuclides are
used to extrapolate the solar cycle prior to 1600.
Figure 2: Data of sunspot numbers from 1600 to the present time.
Data from which curve is plotted is from public access records of
the Royal Observatory of Belgium
The Wolf, Sprer and Dalton minima which we have discussed
elsewhere are all earlier minima inferred from this nuclide data,
but their precision and reliability may be called to question [5].
In any event the Maunder minimum is the best documented,
deepest and most prolonged minimum of sunspot activity on record
for possibly ~1000 years [14]. The Maunder Minimum is also
associated with a simultaneous long period of a very cold weather
in the northern hemisphere known as “The Little Ice Age” [15].
Absence of pandemic inuenza in the Maunder Minimum
Figure 3 shows the record of inuenza pandemics as well as
relevant developments in medical recording and history from a
combination by Pyle [16]. The last major pandemic that can be
been inferred to be inuenza and described as “severe and lethal”
occurred in 1580 and ripped across Europa, North Africa and
Minor Asia throughout that year [16]. This happened during a
Sunspot maximum in the same year during which a great magnetic
solar storm was reported on 6- 8 March, 1582 [17]. After this
cataclysmic pandemic event there was a conspicuous absence of
any pandemic that has been identied as inuenza throughout
the entire 17th century [16,17]. A few seasonal local epidemics of
inuenza have been recorded but none that was severe enough or
lethal to be classied as a pandemic [10,16,19].
Moving forward from 1510 …….. From the time of the pandemic
of 1580 to the next inuenza pandemic in 1730 there is a lapse
of 150 years. This is the longest inter-pandemic period of time
recorded during the last 500 years of records of inuenza epidemics
and pandemics [16,18]. The next clear evidence identied as an
inuenza pandemic outbreak was reported in Europe in 1729-1730,
again this occurred during a Solar maximum [18].
It is worth noting that during the same period (second half of the
17th Century) there were major pandemics of bubonic plague
(e.g., London, 1665-1666) and typhus, all caused by non-viral
pathogens [5]. Our provisional inference is that whilst pandemic
inuenza virus was excluded from arising or entering the Earth
during the prolonged sunspot minimum in question the arrival of
non-viral (bacterial) pathogens may have been somehow facilitated,
perhaps resulting from the weakend magnetosheath that surrounds
the Earth [15]. Finally, we note that after the year 1730 there is an
uninterrupted sequence of inuenza pandemics on record including
the 1918/1919 pandemic. All these pandemics occurred either
during or very close to sunspot maxima, and these times were also
accompanied by signicant increases in auroral activity [16,19].
This record is summarised in Figure 3, along with a timeline of
related scientic and societal events.
Citation: NC Wickramasinghe, et al (2020) Solar Cycle, Maunder Minimum and Pandemic Inuenza. Journal of Infectious Diseases & Case Reports SRC/JIDSCR-143.
Figure 3: Distribution of pandemic inuenza outbreaks reported from 1510 to 2020. (adapted from data given in Figure 2 in Morens,
D.M. and Taubenberger, J.K., 2010, Inuenza and other Respir Viruses, 4 (6), pp.327-337)
Volume 1(4): 4-4
Copyright: ©2020 NC Wickramasinghe, et al. This is an open-access article
distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License,
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium,
provided the original author and source are credited.
J Infect Dis Case Rep, 2020
Citation: NC Wickramasinghe, et al (2020) Solar Cycle, Maunder Minimum and Pandemic Inuenza. Journal of Infectious Diseases & Case Reports SRC/JIDSCR-143.
Moody J (1804) Reactive Oxygen Species: Impact On
Skeletal Muscle Med Phys J 11: 488-492.
Taubenberg JK, Hultin JV, Morens DM (2007) Discovery
and characterization of the 1918 pandemic inuenza virus
in historical context, Antivir Ther 12: 581-591.
3. Hoyle F, Wickramasinghe NC (1979) Diseases from Space.
Dent, United Kingdom and Harper & Row, USA 196.
4. Hoyle F, Wickramasinghe NC (1961) A note on the origin
of the sun’s polar eld, Monthy Notices of the Royal
Astronomical .Society 123: 51.
Wickramasinghe NC (2017) Sunspot Cycle Minima and
Pandemics: The Case for Vigilance? Astrobiol Outreach 5:2
Wickramasinghe NC, Trevors JT (2013) Non-terrestrial origin
of life: a transformative research paradigm shift, Theory in
Biosciences DOI: 10.1007/s12064-012-0172-1.
Wickramasinghe NC, Tokoro G, Rocca MCL (2020) Did the
Human Genetic Lineage Start with Comet Impacts at the End
of the Eocene? Advances in Astrophysics 4: 5.
Sliz-Balogh J, Barta A, Horvath G (2019) Mon.Not.
RAS., Celestial mechanics and polarization optics of the
Kordylewski dust cloud in the Earth–Moon Lagrange point
L5 – Part II. Imaging polarimetric observation: new evidence
for the existence of Kordylewski dust cloud, Mon.Not.RAS
Hope-Simpson RE (1978) Sunspots and u: a correlation.
Nature 275: 86.
Hope-Simpson RE (1992) The Transmission of Epidemic
Inuenza. Plenum Books, New York, USA 251.
Hoyle F, Wickramasinghe NC (1990) Sunspots and inuenza.
Nature 343-304.
Qu J (2016) Is sunspot activity a factor in inuenza pandemics?
Reviews in Medical Virology 26: 309-313.
Eddy JA (1976) The Maunder Minimum. Science 192: 1189-
Muscheler R, Joos F, Beer J, Muller, SA Vonmoos, et al.
(2007) Solar activity during the last 1000 yr inferred from
radionuclide records. Quaternary Science Reviews 26: 82-97.
15. Fagan B (2019) The Little Ice Age, Basic Books, USA 288.
Pyle GF (1986) The Diffusion of Inuenza: patterns and
paradigms. Rowman & Littleeld, Totowa, USA, 218.
Hattori K, Hayakawa H, Ebihara Y (2019) Occurrence of
Great Magnetic Storms on 6-8 March 1582. Monthly Notices
of the Royal Astronomical Society, doi: 10.1093/mnras/
18. Mamelund SE (2008) Influenza: historical; In: Kris
Heggenhougen and Stella Quah (ed), International
Encyclopedia of Public Health, Vol. 3. San Diego: Academic
Press 597-609.
19. Patterson KD (1986) Pandemic Inuenza 1700-1900.
Rowman & Littleeld, Totowa, USA 118.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Full-text available
Telescopes mounted with polarizers can study the neutral points of the Earth's atmosphere, the solar corona, the surface of planets/moons of the Solar system, distant stars, galaxies, and nebulae. These examples demonstrate well that polarimetry is a useful technique to gather astronomical information from spatially extended phenomena. There are two enigmatic celestial objects that can also effectively be studied with imaging polarimetry, namely the Kordylewski dust clouds (KDCs) positioned around the L4 and L5 triangular Lagrangian libration points of the Earth-Moon system. Although in 1961 the Polish astronomer Kazimierz Kordylewski had observed two bright patches near the L5 point with photography, many astronomers assume that these dust clouds do not exist, because the gravitational perturbation of the Sun, solar wind, and other planets may disrupt the stabilizing effect of the L4 and L5 Lagrange points of the Earth and Moon. Using ground-born imaging polarimetry, we present here newobservational evidence for the existence of theKDCaround the L5 point of the Earth- Moon system. Excluding artefacts induced by the telescope, cirrus clouds, or condensation trails of airplanes, the only explanation remains the polarized scattering of sunlight on the particles collected around the L5 point. By our polarimetric detection of the KDC we think it is appropriate to reconsider the pioneering photometric observation of Kordylewski. Our polarimetric evidence is supported by the results of simulation of dust cloud formation in the L5 point of the Earth-Moon system presented in the first part (Slíz-Balogh et al. 2018) of this paper. © 2018 The Author(s). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Full-text available
Direct records of sunspots and the solar cycle have been maintained in astronomical observatories for about 1610AD, while indirect records derived from 14 C analysis of ice cores go back to about 900AD. Minima in the sunspot cycle present conditions conducive to the entry of viruses and bacteria to the Earth and also for mutations of already circulating pathogens. Three grand minima of solar activity on record – the Sporer minimum (1450-1550AD), Maunder minimum (1650-1700AD) and the Dalton minimum (1800-1830) have all been marked by a preponderance of pandemics – Small Pox, English Sweats, Plague and Cholera. The sunspot numbers recorded for the present period 2002-2017 include the deepest sunspot minimum (Cycle 23-24) since records began, and a trend to declining numbers throughout the cycle. The same period has seen the resurgence of several pandemics – SARS, MERS, Zika, Ebola, Influenza A. We consider it prudent to take note of these facts whilst planning future strategies for pandemic surveillance and control.
Full-text available
The history of influenza spans 2500 years from Egypt and Ancient Greece to the present. However, there is little evidence of influenza epidemics in the historical literature before the period from 1173 to 1387, thus the first generally agreed pandemic occurred in 1580. This article reviews the history of the naming of influenza and the discovery of its cause from a social science perspective, giving a chronicle of the epidemics and pandemics described in the literature, and addressing the demographic, economic, and public health concerns and consequences of the disease. The historical role of disease prevention, antiviral drugs, and vaccines is also discussed.
Full-text available
Identification of the causes of past climate change requires detailed knowledge of one of the most important natural factors—solar forcing. Prior to the period of direct solar observations, radionuclide abundances in natural archives provide the best-known proxies for changes in solar activity. Here we present two independent reconstructions of changes in solar activity during the last 1000 yr, which are inferred from 10Be and 14C records. We analyse the tree-ring 14C data (SHCal, IntCal04 from 1000 to 1510 AD and annual data from 1511 to 1950 AD) and four 10Be records from Greenland ice cores (Camp Century, GRIP, Milcent and Dye3) together with two 10Be records from Antarctic ice cores (Dome Concordia and South Pole). In general, the 10Be and 14C records exhibit good agreement that allows us to obtain reliable estimates of past solar magnetic modulation of the radionuclide production rates. Differences between 10Be records from Antarctica and Greenland indicate that climatic changes have influenced the deposition of 10Be during some periods of the last 1000 yr. The radionuclide-based reconstructions of past changes in solar activity do not always agree with the sunspot record, which indicates that the coupling between those proxies is not as close as has been sometimes assumed. The tree-ring 14C record and 10Be from Antarctica indicate that recent solar activity is high but not exceptional with respect to the last 1000 yr.
Theories and hypotheses in science are continually subject to verification, critical re-evaluation, revision and indeed evolution, in response to new observations and discoveries. Theories of the origin of life have been more constrained than other scientific theories and hypotheses in this regard, through the force of social and cultural pressures. There has been a tendency to adhere too rigidly to a class of theory that demands a purely terrestrial origin of life. For nearly five decades evidence in favour of a non-terrestrial origin of life and panspermia has accumulated which has not been properly assessed. A point has now been reached that demands the serious attention of biologists to a possibly transformative paradigm shift of the question of the origin of life, with profound implications across many disciplines.