Arthur C. Clarke, progenitor of communication satellites, is considered by many to be a grand master
of science fiction.
Sir Arthur Charles Clarke (born December 16, 1917) is a British author and inventor, probably most famous for his science fiction novel 2001: A Space Odyssey which was written concurrently with the film version by Stanley Kubrick. It is loosely inspired by Clarke's short story "The Sentinel", but it became its own novel while he was collaborating on a screenplay with Kubrick. Kubrick approached Clarke about writing a novel for the express purpose of making "the proverbial good science-fiction movie", and the novel was still being written while the film was being made. This resulted in one of the truly unique collaborations in media history.
He has written numerous other books, including the Rama novels and several sequels to 2001, and many short stories.
There is an asteroid named in his honour, 4923 Clarke, as well as a species of Ceratopsian dinosaur, Serendipaceratops arthurcclarkei , discovered in Inverloch in Australia.
He lives on Sri Lanka, and survived the tsunamis of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, but lost his diving school on Hikkaduwa ( ).
Clarke was born in Minehead, Somerset, England, and as a boy enjoyed stargazing and enthusiastically read old American science fiction magazines (many of which made their way to England as ballast in ships). After secondary school, he was unable to afford university and consequently acquired a job as an auditor in the pensions section of the Board of Education.
During World War II, he served in the Royal Air Force (RAF) as a radar specialist and was involved in the early warning radar defense system which contributed to the Royal Air Force's success during the Battle of Britain. After the war, he obtained a first class degree in mathematics and physics at King's College, London.
His most important contribution may be the conception that geostationary satellites would be ideal telecommunications relays. He proposed this concept in a scientific paper titled "Extra-Terrestrial Relays - Can Rocket Stations Give Worldwide Radio Coverage?", published in Wireless World in October 1945. The geostationary orbit is now known as the Clarke orbit in his honour.
In the early 1940s, while he was in the RAF, Clarke began selling his science fiction stories to magazines. Clarke worked briefly as Assistant Editor of Science Abstracts before devoting himself to writing full-time from 1951. He has been chairman of the British Interplanetary Society and a member of the Underwater Explorers Club .
He has lived in Colombo, Sri Lanka, since 1956, immigrating when it was still called Ceylon. This inspired the locale for his novel, The Fountains of Paradise, in which he describes a space elevator. This, he figures, will ultimately be his legacy, more so than geostationary satellites, once space elevators make space shuttles obsolete.
Early in his career, Clarke had a fascination with the paranormal, and has stated that it was part of the inspiration for his novel Childhood's End. He has also said that he was one of several who were fooled by a Uri Geller demonstration at Birkbeck College. Although he has long since dismissed and distanced himself from most pseudo-science, he still advocates for research into purported instances of telekinesis and other similar phenomena.
Clarke is known to many for his television programmes Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World (1981) and Arthur C. Clarke's World of Strange Powers (1984).
In 1988 he was diagnosed with post-polio syndrome and has since been confined to a wheel-chair.
His knighthood was first announced in 1998, but then the British tabloid The Sunday Mirror published accusations of paedophilia against him (). The award was delayed while the allegations were investigated, although by 2000 the BBC reported that he had been "cleared" (). Clarke's health did not allow him to travel to London to receive the honour personally from the Queen, so the UK High Commissioner to Sri Lanka awarded him the title of Knight Bachelor at a ceremony in Colombo.
He is currently the Honorary Board Chair of the Institute for Cooperation in Space, founded by Dr. Carol Rosin.
He was the first Chancellor of the International Space University, serving from 1989 to 2004 and Chancellor of Moratuwa University, Sri Lanka, from 1979 to 2002.
A partial list of his (some co-authored) fiction books in chronological order:
Apart from his fiction, Clarke has written two autobiographies. Ascent to Orbit is what he calls his scientific autobiography and Astounding Days his science fictional autobiography. Since Clarke has led a very full and interesting life, both books contain much of interest.
Clarke's email correspondence with Peter Hyams, director of the film 2010: Odyssey Two, was published in 1984. Entitled , and co-authored with Hyams, it illustrates his fascination with the then pioneering medium and its use for them to communicate on an almost daily basis at the time of planning and production of the film. The book also includes Clarke's list of the best science fiction films ever made.
Most of his essays (between 1934 to 1998) can be found in the book Greetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds! (2000). Most of his short stories can be found in the book The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke (2001). They make a good collection of Clarke's non-fiction and fiction works, even for those who already have most of his books. Another collection of early essays were published in The View from Serendip (1977), which also included one short piece of fiction, When the Twerms Came . He has also written short stories under the pseudonyms of E. G. O'Brien and Charles Willis.