Robert A. Heinlein Biography

(American Novelist Best Known as the 'Dean of Science Fiction Writers')

Birthday: July 7, 1907 (Cancer)

Born In: Butler, Missouri, United States

Popularly known as ‘Dean of Science Fiction Writers’, Robert A Heinlein was one of the most influential and controversial authors, who broke the realms and scaled the genre of science fiction writing to newer heights. He set a standard for scientific and engineering credibility and enhanced the quality of the genre impeccably. Together with Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke, he was one of the ‘Big Three’ of science fiction authors. In his lifetime, Heinlein published 32 novels, 59 short stories, and 16 collections. Interestingly, his stories did not just revolve around science fiction and instead addressed social themes like the importance of liberation, self-reliance, the influence of organized religion on culture and government and the tendency of society to repress nonconformist thought.

Quick Facts

Nick Name: Anson MacDonald, Lyle Monroe, John Riverside, Caleb Saunders, Simon York

Also Known As: Robert Anson Heinlein

Died At Age: 80


Spouse/Ex-: Virginia Heinlein (m. 1948)

father: Rex Ivar Heinlein

mother: Bam Lyle Heinlein

siblings: Lawrence Heinlein

Born Country: United States

Quotes By Robert A. Heinlein Soldiers

Died on: May 8, 1988

place of death: Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, United States

Cause of Death: Emphysema

Ancestry: German American

U.S. State: Missouri

More Facts

education: United States Naval Academy

awards: - Hugo Award for Best Novel
- Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award
- Prometheus Hall of Fame Award
Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel

  • 1

    What are some of Robert A. Heinlein's most famous books?

    Some of Robert A. Heinlein's most famous books include "Stranger in a Strange Land," "Starship Troopers," "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress," "Time Enough for Love," and "Friday."
  • 2

    What genres did Robert A. Heinlein primarily write in?

    Robert A. Heinlein primarily wrote in the science fiction genre, often incorporating elements of speculative fiction and social commentary into his work.
  • 3

    Did Robert A. Heinlein serve in the military?

    Yes, Robert A. Heinlein served in the United States Navy from 1929 to 1934 before being discharged due to tuberculosis.
  • 4

    Was Robert A. Heinlein involved in any political activities?

    Robert A. Heinlein was known for his libertarian views and often included political themes in his writing, advocating for individualism and personal freedom.
  • 5

    How did Robert A. Heinlein influence the science fiction genre?

    Robert A. Heinlein is considered one of the most influential figures in science fiction, known for his innovative storytelling, exploration of social and political themes, and development of the space opera subgenre.
Childhood & Early Life
Robert A. Heinlein was born on July 7, 1907 to Rex Ivar Heinlein and Bam Lyle Heinlein in Butler, Missouri. He was the third child of the couple.
Much of his growing up years was spent in Kansas City, the place where the Heinlein family shifted a few months after his birth. The place had an overwhelming influence in shaping his personality and his works.
He developed an interest in astronomy from a very young age. By the time he was 16, he read almost every book available on astronomy and science fiction.
Completing his preliminary education from Central High School, he enrolled himself at the Naval Academy, in Annapolis, Maryland, in 1925. He graduated from the same in 1929 with a BS degree in Naval Engineering.
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Upon gaining his graduation degree, he served as an officer in the Navy. In 1931, he was commissioned to work under radio communications in the new aircraft carrier USS Lexington.
From 1933 to 1934, he served on-board USS Roper, and was promoted to the rank of lieutenant. He was relieved from his duties in 1934 following diagnosis of pulmonary tuberculosis.
For a brief duration, he attended graduate classes in mathematics and physics at the University of California at Los Angeles but did not continue with the same for long. He then pursued a career in politics.
To survive a living, he took up various jobs including in real estate sales and silver mining. He was an active supporter of the Upton Sinclair’s End Poverty movement and supported the former during his democratic nomination for Governorship.
His first attempt at politics was an unsuccessful one, for a seat in the California State Assembly in 1938. The crushing defeat and burden of mortgage left him with no choice but to forego his second career option as well.
Meanwhile, a notice from ‘Thrilling Wonder Stories’ calling for submission from new and unpublished writers caught his eye and stirred his interest in what would eventually become his third and final career option – writing.
He turned to pen stories. The following year, ‘Life Line’ became his first ever story to be published in the August issue of Astounding Science-Fiction. In November, his second published story ‘Misfit’ was published.
Soon, he gained the reputation of being a leader of the new movement toward social science fiction. During World War II, he studied aeronautical engineering to serve at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in Pennsylvania.
He continued to pursue his writing career but progressed from fiction tales to non-fiction on political topics. In February 1947 came his first of the four influential short stories, ‘The Green Hills of Earth’ published at the Saturday Evening Post magazine.
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From 1947 through 1959, he penned a series of juvenile novels for Charles Scribner’s Sons publishing company, releasing one book every autumn. Some of the books included, ‘Have Space Suit –Will Travel’, ‘Farmer in the Sky’, ‘Starman Jones’, ‘Red Planet’ and so on.
In 1950, he co-wrote the script and invented the effects in the Academy Award winning documentary-like film, ‘Destination Moon’.
In 1952, he started writing for Boy’s Life. The same year, he along with his wife penned an article titled, ‘A House to Make Life Easy’ wherein both gave in their input. The article presented some novel and innovative features.
In 1953, he undertook a voyage along with his wife, travelling round the world. Inspired by his travels, he penned a book, ‘Tramp Royale’. Though the book found no takers then, it later provided background material for science fiction novels.
In 1958, a full-paged article on Colorado Springs newspaper urging US to stop nuclear testing unilaterally outraged him and led to the formation of the Patrick Henry League. For the next couple of weeks, he wrote counter articles, attacking the Communist-line of thinking and urging others to support the same.
The constraints of writing novels for children creatively impounded him. Soon, he released himself from the shackles by finding himself a new publisher. He then switched to more mature write-ups. His last juvenile novel was ‘Starship Troopers’ published in 1959.
His 1961 released book, ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’ reaffirmed his lifelong interest in science fiction and redrew the boundaries of the genre. The book gained him utmost popularity in ‘counterculture’ and earned him the status of a personal guru.
In 1966, he came up with yet another extraordinary award winning work ‘The Moon is a Harsh Mistress’. The decade of 1970s started on a bad note as he suffered from perforated diverticulum.
It was only in 1972 that he fully recovered from his health condition to concentrate on writing. The following year, he came up with his next work, ‘Time Enough for Love’. The book stood on the threshold of his later works as it introduced many themes which were basically found in his later fiction.
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The years of 1976 and 1977 were dedicated to reorganizing blood donation camps in the United States. He served as the Guest of Honor at the World Science Fiction Convention.
In 1978, he set out for yet another vacation with his wife. It was during this trip that he suffered from a transient ischemic attack. He underwent a carotid bypass operation to restore and recover himself fully.
In 1983, he undertook a long delayed trip to Antarctica, the only continent which he had not visited. Returning from the same, he penned the novel, ‘Job: A Comedy of Justice’.
Meanwhile throughout the 1980s, he actively participated in the space movement and was a member of the Citizens Advisory Council on National Space Policy. He collaborated with Jerry Pournelle to write space policy papers for the incoming Reagan Administration.
Awards & Achievements
He was named by the Science Fiction Writers of America as its first Grand Master in 1974.
An asteroid, 6312 Robheinlein (1990 RH4), discovered on September 14, 1990 by H. E. Holt, has been named after him.
In 1998, he was inducted in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame
In 2001, ‘Robert A. Heinlein Chair In Aerospace Engineering’ was created by the United States Naval Academy.
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In 2013, he was announced as an inductee in the Hall of Famous Missourians. His bronze statue would be one of the forty four which would be permanently displayed in the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married thrice in his lifetime. The first was to Elinor Curry in 1929. The relationship did not work out and the two separated a year later in 1930.
He later married Leslyn MacDonald in 1932. She remained his partner for fifteen years. She undertook various travels with him and assisted him in his write ups. The couple applied for divorce in 1947.
In 1948, he tied the nuptials for a third time to Virginia ‘Ginny’Gerstenfeld. He remained with her until his death forty years later.
His health was failing over his last few years. In 1987, he required advance medical attendance. He breathed his last on May 8, 1988 in his morning nap. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered in the Pacific.
Facts About Robert A. Heinlein
Heinlein was known for his unconventional approach to writing science fiction, often incorporating social and political commentary into his works.

Heinlein's novel "Stranger in a Strange Land" became a cultural phenomenon in the 1960s, and is considered a classic of the science fiction genre.

Heinlein's work often challenged traditional societal norms and explored themes of individualism, personal responsibility, and the potential for human advancement.
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