John W. Campbell Biography

John W. Campbell was an American science fiction writer and editor. Explore this biography to learn more about his profile, childhood, life and timeline.

Quick Facts

Nick Name: Don A. Stuart

Birthday: June 8, 1910

Nationality: American

Famous: Editors Science Fiction Writers

Died At Age: 61

Sun Sign: Gemini

Born in: Newark, New Jersey, USA

Famous as: Science Fiction Writer


Spouse/Ex-: Dona Stewart, Margaret (Peg) Winter

father: John Wood Campbell

mother: Dorothy Strahern

Died on: July 11, 1971

place of death: Mountainside, New Jersey, USA

U.S. State: New Jersey

More Facts

education: Duke University

awards: 1965 - Hugo Award for Best Professional Magazine

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John W. Campbell was an American science fiction writer and editor. He started writing science fiction stories when he was 18 years old. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Duke University after studying in Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he failed in German. His initial stories were published by Amazing. By 21, he was a well-known science fiction writer. He wrote under various pseudonyms including Don A. Stuart, Karl Van Campen, and Arthur McCann. His novel ‘The Mightiest Machine’ was well received. Its three sequels featuring its hero Aarn Munro appeared in The Incredible Planet. He was editor of the magazine ‘Astounding Science Fiction’, later called ‘Analog Science Fiction and Fact; until his death. He started the fantasy magazine ‘Unknown’. As an editor, he helped launch the careers of Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, A.E. van Vogt and Theodore Sturgeon, and brought many already established writers into his camp. He wrote many articles on electronics and radio, and hosted a weekly science fiction radio program called Exploring Tomorrow. He is considered as one of the pioneers of the Golden Age of Science Fiction.

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Childhood & Early Life
  • Campbell started his writing career with the American science fiction magazine Amazing Stories. But his first manuscripted titled ' ‘Invaders of the Infinite', which was accepted by the magazine was lost by its editor. His next story ‘When the Atoms Failed’ and five more stories appeared in Amazing’s monthly and Quarterly in 1930.
  • He published stories such as ‘Twilight’, ‘Night’ and ‘Who Goes There?’ under the pseudonym Don A. Stuart derived from his wife’s name, Dona Stewart. He also used the name Karl Van Campen.
  • ‘Who Goes There?’ was about a group of Antarctic researchers who discover a crashed alien vessel, with a malevolent shape-changing occupant. It was first filmed as ‘The Thing from Another World’ in 1951.
  • In 1936, he began series of 18 monthly articles on the solar system under his own name. He also published a number of articles as Arthur McCann.
  • He was hired as the editor of Astounding magazine from October 1937 issue. He gave the label ‘mutant’ for unusual stories, and changed the title from Astounding Stories to Astounding Science-Fiction.
  • He helped launch the careers of Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, A.E. van Vogt, and Theodore Sturgeon. Established writers like Hubbard, Leinster, and Simak became part of Campbell’s camp.
  • The July 1939 issue of Astounding contained A. E. van Vogt’s first story, ‘Black Destroyer’, and Asimov’s story ‘Trends’ followed by Robert A. Heinlein’s first story, ‘Life-Line’, and Theodore Sturgeon’s first story.
  • He was of the opinion that slavery should have ended with industrialization, and that the Civil War was unnecessary. He believed that the industrial management would accept any skilled and competent machinist irrespective of race or color.
  • He wrote many articles on electronics and radio. From December, 1957 he hosted a weekly science fiction radio program called Exploring Tomorrow with scripts written by authors like Gordon R. Dickson and Robert Silverberg.
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Major Works
  • Campbell started the fantasy magazine Unknown in 1939. It was cancelled after only four years due to wartime paper shortages. It was, however, significant in the evolution of modern fantasy.
Awards & Achievements
  • At the 1953 World Science Fiction Convention, Campbell and Astounding shared the inaugural Hugo Awards with H. L. Gold and Galaxy. They won the Hugo Award for Best Professional Magazine seven times.
Personal Life & Legacy
  • Campbell married Dona Stewart married in 1931. They divorced after eighteen years.
  • He then married Margaret Winter in 1950. They had three children. He spent most of his life in New Jersey.
  • He was a heavy smoker throughout his life, and was seldom seen without a cigarette. He was alienated from many illustrious writers due to his eccentric editorial demands.
  • He died of heart failure on July 11, 1971, in New Jersey, at the age of 71.

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