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In the opening lines of The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells (1898) is the sentence.

Yet so vain is man, and so blinded by his vanity, that no writer, up to the very end of the nineteenth century, expressed any idea that intelligent life might have developed there far, or indeed at all, beyond its earthly level.

It seems to imply that this story is the first occurrence of a Martian (or possibly any alien) that is mentally superior to Earthlings.

Did H.G. Wells invent the idea of Martian/Alien intelligence surpassing Earthly intelligence?

It does not go unnoticed by me that a character in a fictional work, is touting the achievements of the author, possibly another first?

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  • Hmm... Rabelais at least addressed the topic of extraterrestrial intelligence in The Life of Gargantua and of Pantagruel (1523-1564). Aug 7 '20 at 15:20
  • The Martians in Kurd Lasswitz's 1897 novel Auf Zwei Planeten, practically contemporaneous with The War of the Worlds, were more intelligent than Earthmen. Since you opened it up to space aliens in general, the Sirian title character of Voltaire's Micromégas (1752) was pretty smart, possibly of superhuman intelligence.
    – user14111
    Aug 8 '20 at 1:27
  • I would suggest that the idea of an invading "race" being vastly superior technologically or culturally was a very natural idea for a 19th century Englishman -- I believe that this was how they justified their colonialism. I have heard it also suggested that Island of Dr. Moreau is about how superior races attempt to bring other races to their level (as a favor to them) but "the damned beast flesh keeps growing back..."
    – releseabe
    Aug 17 at 6:45
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Unlikely

The moon based and sun based aliens in the 2nd century CE A True Story are at least of Earthly intelligence.

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