Sir Arthur Charles Clarke
Birthday: December 16, 1917
Science Fiction Writers
Died At Age: 90
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Also Known As: Arthur C. Clarke
Born in: Minehead, Somerset, England
Famous as: Writer
Spouse/Ex-: Marilyn Mayfield
siblings: Fred Clarke
Died on: March 19, 2008
place of death: Colombo, Sri Lanka
Diseases & Disabilities: Polio
education: Huish Grammar School, King's College London
awards: 1956 - Hugo award
1961 - UNESCO–Kalinga Prize
1963 - Stuart Ballantine Medal
1985 - 7th SFWA Grand Master
1988–1989 - All-Time Second Best Science Fiction Author Award
1989 - CBE Award
2003 - Telluride Tech Festival Award of Technology
2004 - Heinlein Award
2005 - Sri Lankabhimanya (The Pride of Sri Lanka) Award
Sir Arthur Clarke was a British science fiction writer, inventor and futurist. For a long time, Clarke Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov, were known as the “Big Three” of science fiction. A multi-faceted personality, he had served in the Royal Air Force during the World War II and served as the chairman of the British Interplanetary Society. He was an adventurous person who migrated to Sri Lanka to pursue his interest in Scuba Diving—and discovered the ruins of an ancient temple by chance. He was a prolific writer who had written more than 100 books, guided by his keen observation, imagination and scientific attitude. He had an uncanny ability for predicting futuristic technologies long before they became a reality. In his writings he had predicted the concept of satellite communication, space shuttles, super-fast computers, and many other innovations that ultimately came to be in reality. Since he had worked in scientific research, his writings usually revolved around space travel, explorations and futuristic inventions. His first novel ‘The Sands of Mars’ concerns a story about the exploration of the surface of Mars, while his second novel ‘Prelude to Space’ is a fiction about astronauts traveling to the moon. The astonishing fact is that they were written in the early 1950’s—years before space travel became a reality!
Childhood & Early Life
Clarke was born in Somerset, England to a farmer and his wife. He grew up on farm stargazing and reading popular magazines. He attended the Huish Grammar School.
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He held a job as a pension auditor in the Board of Education during the pre-war days. During the World War II, he served as a radar specialist in the Royal Air Force.
He was commissioned as a Pilot Officer in May 1943. Within months he was promoted to Flying Officer. He was later appointed chief training instructor at Royal Air Force and had become the Flight Lieutenant by the time the war ended.
He enrolled in the prestigious King’s College, London after the war and earned a first-class degree in mathematics and physics.
He served two stints as the chairman of the British Interplanetary Society (1946-47; 1951-53).
Starting from the decade on 1950’s, Clarke focused on his writing career. His first published novel, ‘The Sands of Mars’ came out in 1951.
In 1953, he published his novel ‘Prelude to Space’ which he had written in 1947. The novel dealt with space travel. Another novel, ‘Childhood’s End’ was also published the same year.
He wrote a series of short story collection in the 1950’s decade: ‘Expedition to Earth’ (1953), ‘Reach for Tomorrow’ (1956), ‘Tales from the White Hart’ (1957), ‘The Other Side of the Sky’ (1958), etc.
His novel ‘A Fall of Moondust’ was published in 1961. It was followed by the very popular ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ in 1968.
His novella ‘A Meeting with Medusa’ is the story of the captain of an experimental giant-sized helium filled airship which meets with an accident. It was first published in 1971 and since then has been included in many of the collections of his works.
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He published the science fiction classic, ‘Rendezvous with Rama’, set in the 22nd century, in 1972.
In 1979, he published ‘The Fountains of Paradise’, in which he described the concept of geostationary satellites.
He published the sequel to his 1968 novel ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ in 1982. It was titled ‘2010: Odyssey Two.’ The third novel of the series, ‘2061: Odyssey Three’ came out in 1987, followed by the final book in the sequel, ‘3001: The Final Odyssey’ in 1997.
The 1968 futuristic novel ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ is one of the most popular works of Clarke. The novel deals with many vital issues such as dangers of nuclear war, challenges of technology, and artificial intelligence.
‘Rendezvous with Rama’ published in 1972, is considered to be one of the cornerstones in his writing career. The novel won a number of awards in the category ‘Best Novel’ including Nebula Award, Hugo Award and Jupiter Award.
His novel ‘Fountains of Paradise’ (1979) described space elevators and geostationary orbits. It won many nominations and awards.
Awards & Achievements
He was awarded the prestigious Kalinga Prize for the Popularization of Science by UNESCO in 1961 for “exceptional skill in presenting scientific ideas to lay people. “
The Stuart Ballantine Medal, a science and engineering award presented by Franklin Institute, of Philadelphia was awarded to him in 1963 for engineering.
He is the recipients of many Nebula Awards and Hugo Awards which are given for the best work of fiction in the science fiction or fantasy genre.
He was awarded the Knight Bachelor of the Order of the British Empire in the 1998 Queen's Honours List for his services to literature and astronomy.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married Marilyn Mayfield in 1953. The couple separated within months of marriage though they did not divorce till 1964. They did not have any children together.
Clarke migrated to Sri Lanka in 1956 and became close to a Sri Lankan man, Leslie Ekanayake. He did not publicize his sexuality, but it was generally believed that he was homosexual.
He suffered from post-polio syndrome during his later years and had to use a wheelchair. He died from respiratory failure at the age of 90 in 2008.
The Arthur C. Clarke Awards, named in his honour, are awarded annually in the U.K for science fiction writing.
His novel ‘A Fall of Moondust’ was the first science fiction novel selected to become a Reader's Digest Condensed Book.
One of the major research institutes in Sri Lanka is named after him: Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Modern Technologies.
He is buried with his Sri Lankan partner Leslie Ekanayake in the Colombo Central Cemetery.