In The Martian, after Mark Watney reestablishes contact with Earth, he says this:

I’ve gotten e-mail from rock stars, athletes, actors and actresses, and even the President.

One of them was from my alma mater, the University of Chicago. They say once you grow crops somewhere, you have officially “colonized” it. So technically, I colonized Mars.

In your face , Neil Armstrong!

Is there any evidence that this is true, either from those involved with the movie, those involved with the university, or any other article/source out there?

If this should be migrated to a different SE, by all means, point the way.

  • 3
    The university? You know, there was no Mark Whatney ever enrolled at the University of Chicago (let alone sent to Mars), so I doubt they ever said something like this. I mean, I get you're asking if that statement is an accepted definition, but I don't see what the university has to do with that.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Oct 13, 2020 at 13:00
  • Another possible interpretation of that sentence is that they (the university) said this in their email to him. Which doesn't necessarily mean they (or anyone) said it before.
    – Steve-O
    Oct 13, 2020 at 13:56
  • @Steve-O Oh, I thought that was the only interpretation. I didn't consider that the asker thought they said it at some totally different point.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Oct 13, 2020 at 14:13
  • 1
    @NapoleonWilson Yeah, I'm fully aware. But the events being fictional events wouldn't stop the Uni from tweeting something like "This is true! Here's a link to learn more" in the midst of the hubbub over the movie. Barring that, yeah, I was just looking for any tidbit of out-of-universe data supporting the assertion. Oct 14, 2020 at 3:07

1 Answer 1


I think this stems from the origin of the word "colonise" rather than any legal definition or opinion from any University.


The term colonization is derived from the Latin words colere ("to cultivate, to till"), colonia ("a landed estate", "a farm") and colonus ("a tiller of the soil", "a farmer"), then by extension "to inhabit". Someone who engages in colonization, i.e. the agent noun, is referred to as a colonizer, while the person who gets colonized, i.e. the object of the agent noun or absolutive, is referred to as a colonizee, colonisee or the colonised.

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