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"Conspiracy theories are big because they're comforting. Any conspiracy is infinitely less multiplex than the real deal, which is multiplex to the point of being unknowable."
- William Gibson

Terraforming  
  The process of modifying a planetary surface to resemble those of an ideal earth; affects the entire biosphere.  

This is probably the first instance of the word; the concept is implicit in other, earlier stories.

He had been the original claimant of Obania, forty years ago; and Drake was the young spatial engineer he employed to terraform the little rock, only two kilometers through—by sinking a shaft to its heart for the paragravity installation, generating oxygen and water from mineral oxides, releasing absorptive gases to trap the feeble heat of the far-off Sun.
From Collision Orbit, by Jack Williamson.
Published by Astounding in 1942
Additional resources -

This idea had been used before; in H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds (1898), the Martians seem to be making parts of the Earth over for their own use.

The idea of terraforming is used explicitly in Olaf Stapledon's Last and First Men, a 1930 novel, which describes human beings terraforming Venus. See planets made habitable from Last and First Men (1930) by Stapledon.

Another notable instance occurs in reverse in David Gerold's War Against the Chtorr series (1983); aliens are said to be "chtorriforming" the Earth.

Most sf fans will recall the Genesis device from Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (1982) which can quickly and easily terraform planets devoid of life. It can also be used to do a "make over" of inhabited planets, the existing life being folded into the Genesis matrix. Dr. McCoy was particularly offended by this kind of use, saying "According to myth, the Earth was created in 6 days. Now, watch out! Here comes Genesis. We'll do it for you in 6 minutes!"

Compare to planetary engineering from The Cometeers (1936) also by Williamson.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Collision Orbit
  More Ideas and Technology by Jack Williamson
  Tech news articles related to Collision Orbit
  Tech news articles related to works by Jack Williamson

Terraforming-related news articles:
  - NASA Debates Terraforming Mars
  - Microbes To Terraform Mars?

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