• Arthur C. Clarke
  •  Arthur C. Clarke

    "Arthur Clarke" redirects here. For other uses, see Arthur Clarke (disambiguation) .

    Sir Arthur Charles Clarke CBE FRAS (16 December 1917 – 19 March 2008) was an English science-fiction writer , science writer, futurist , [3] inventor, undersea explorer, and television series host.

    He co-wrote the screenplay for the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey , one of the most influential films of all time. [4][5] Clarke was a science writer, an avid populariser of space travel, and a futurist of a distinguished ability. He wrote more than a dozen books and many essays for popular magazines. In 1961, he received the Kalinga Prize, a

    UNESCO award for popularising science. Clarke's science and science-fiction writings earned him the moniker "Prophet of the Space Age". [6] His science-fiction writings in particular earned him a number of Hugo and

    Nebula awards, which along with a large readership, made him one of the towering figures of the genre. For many years Clarke, Robert Heinlein , and

    Isaac Asimov were known as the "Big Three" of science fiction. [7]

    Clarke was a lifelong proponent of

    space travel. In 1934, while still a teenager, he joined the British Interplanetary Society . In 1945, he proposed a satellite communication system using geostationary orbits .[8] He was the chairman of the British Interplanetary Society from 1946–1947 and again in 1951–1953. [9]

    Clarke emigrated from England to

    Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) in 1956, to pursue his interest in scuba diving.[10] That year, he discovered the underwater ruins of the ancient

    Koneswaram Temple in Trincomalee . Clarke augmented his popularity in the 1980s, as the host of television shows such as Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World . He lived in Sri Lanka until his death. [11]

    Clarke was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1989 "for services to British cultural interests in Sri Lanka".[12] He was

    knighted in 1998 [13][14] and was awarded Sri Lanka's highest civil honour, Sri Lankabhimanya , in 2005. [15]


    Early years

    Clarke was born in Minehead ,

    Somerset , England, [16] and grew up in nearby Bishops Lydeard . As a boy, he lived on a farm, where he enjoyed

    stargazing , fossil collecting, and reading American science-fiction pulp magazines . He received his secondary education at Huish grammar school in

    Taunton. Some of his early influences included dinosaur cigarette cards, which led to an enthusiasm for fossils starting about 1925. Clarke attributed his interest in science fiction to reading three items: the November 1928 issue of Amazing Stories in 1929; Last and First Men by Olaf Stapledon in 1930; and The Conquest of Space by David Lasser in 1931. [17]

    In his teens, he joined the Junior Astronomical Association and contributed to Urania, the society's journal, which was edited in Glasgow by Marion Eadie. At Clarke's request, she added an Astronautics Section, which featured a series of articles written by him on spacecraft and space travel. Clarke also contributed pieces to the Debates and Discussions Corner, a counterblast to an Urania article offering the case against space travel, and also his recollections of the Walt Disney film Fantasia. He moved to London in 1936 and joined the Board of Education as a pensions auditor. [18] Some fellow science-fiction writers and he shared a flat in Gray's Inn Road, where he got the nickname "Ego" because of his absorption in subjects that interested him, [19] and would later name his office filled with memorabilia as his "ego chamber". [20]

    World War II

    During the Second World War from 1941 to 1946, he served in the Royal Air Force as a radar specialist and was involved in the early-warning radar defence system, which contributed to the RAF's success during the Battle of Britain . Clarke spent most of his wartime service working on ground-controlled approach (GCA) radar, as documented in the semiautobiographical Glide Path , his only non-science-fiction novel. Although GCA did not see much practical use during the war, it proved vital to the Berlin Airlift of 1948–1949 after several years of development. Clarke initially served in the ranks, and was a corporal instructor on radar at No. 2 Radio School, RAF Yatesbury in

    Wiltshire . He was commissioned as a

    pilot officer (technical branch) on 27 May 1943. [21] He was promoted flying officer on 27 November 1943. [22] He was appointed chief training instructor at RAF Honiley in Warwickshire and was demobilised with the rank of flight lieutenant .


    After the war, he attained a first-class degree in mathematics and physics from King's College London. [23][24][25] After this, he worked as assistant editor at Physics Abstracts .[26] Clarke then served as president of the British Interplanetary Society from 1946 to 1947 and again from 1951 to 1953. [27]

    Although he was not the originator of the concept of geostationary satellites, one of his most important contributions in this field may be his idea that they would be ideal telecommunications relays. He advanced this idea in a paper privately circulated among the core technical members of the British Interplanetary Society in 1945. The concept was published in Wireless World in October of that year. [8] Clarke also wrote a number of nonfiction books describing the technical details and societal implications of rocketry and space flight. The most notable of these may be Interplanetary Flight: An Introduction to Astronautics (1950), The Exploration of Space (1951), and The Promise of Space (1968). In recognition of these contributions, the

    geostationary orbit 36,000 kilometres (22,000 mi) above the equator is officially recognised by the

    International Astronomical Union as the

    Clarke Orbit . [28]

    Following the 1968 release of 2001 , Clarke became much in demand as a commentator on science and technology, especially at the time of the Apollo space program . On 20 July 1969, Clarke appeared as a commentator for the CBS News broadcast of the Apollo 11 moon landing. [29][30]

    Sri Lanka and diving

    Clarke lived in Sri Lanka from 1956 until his death in 2008, first in Unawatuna on the south coast, and then in

    Colombo . [31] Initially, his friend Mike Wilson and he travelled around Sri Lanka, diving in the coral waters around the coast with the Beachcombers Club. In 1957, during a dive trip off Trincomalee, Clarke discovered the underwater ruins of a temple, which would subsequently make the region popular with divers. [32] He subsequently described it in his 1957 book The Reefs of Taprobane. This was his second diving book after the 1956

    The Coast of Coral . [33] Though Clarke lived mostly in Colombo , he set up a small diving school and a simple dive shop near Trincomalee. He dived often at Hikkaduwa, Trincomalee, and

    Nilaveli . [34]

    The Sri Lankan government offered Clarke resident guest status in 1975. [35] He was held in such high esteem that when fellow science-fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein came to visit, the Sri Lanka Air Force provided a helicopter to take them around the country. [36] In the early 1970s, Clarke signed a three-book publishing deal, a record for a science-fiction writer at the time. The first of the three was Rendezvous with Rama in 1973, whi

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