"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." - Arthur C. Clarke

Happy Birthday, Arthur C. Clarke!

clarke2Arthur C. Clarke (December 16, 1917 – March 19, 2008) was a British science fiction writer, futurist, and inventor who passionately championed the value of scientific exploration. Clarke is often referred to as one of the "Big Three" major authors of science fiction, along with Robert A. Heinlein and Isaac Asimov. Among his most well-known works is 2001: A Space Odyssey, which was concurrently developed with Stanley Kubrick's film version and published soon after the release of the film.

clarke1Clark served in the Royal Air Force during World War II as a radar specialist and worked on developing Ground Controlled Approach (GCA) radar, which he later documented in his semi-autobiographical novel, Glide Path. He began his service as a pilot and moved up the ranks to become the chief training instructor of his RAF station and a flight lieutenant before he was demobilized. After the war, he went on to earn a first-class degree in mathematics and physics at King's College London.


From 1946–1947 and again from 1951–1953, Clarke was the Chairman of the British Interplanetary Society. In addition to his many science fiction stories, Clarke also wrote extensively on the details of rocket science and space travel, and what they would mean for society, in such works as The Exploration of Space (1951) and The Promise of Space (1968). He was also a key supporter of the concept of using geostationary satellites for telecommunication.


Clarke befriended fellow author C. S. Lewis and they corresponded regularly to discuss science fiction and space travel. In 1948, Clarke submitted a short story, The Sentinel to a BBC writing competition.Though it was rejected, it set the course for much of his later career, as it became the basis for 2001: A Space Odyssey. Clarke's work is noted for often sharing a theme of humankind being observed and often experimented on by a superior alien race. Other notable works to explore this relationship include Childhood's End (often regarded as his best novel), The City and the Stars, Rendezvous with Rama, and 2010: Odyssey Two, the sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey.



clarke5In his later years, Clarke hosted a series of popular television programs, including Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World, Arthur C. Clarke's World of Strange Powers and Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious Universe. During a taped interview in 1947, Clarke correctly predicted that by the year 2001, online banking and shopping would be commonplace activities, and said of the interviewer's then–young son,

"[H]e will have, in his own house, not a computer as big as this, [points to nearby computer], but at least, a console through which he can talk, through his local computer and get all the information he needs, for his everyday life, like his bank statements, his theater reservations, all the information you need in the course of living in our complex modern society, this will be in a compact form in his own house ... and he will take it as much for granted as we take the telephone."


Clarke also provided the foreword for Beyond: Visions of the Interplanetary Probes, a collection of planetscapes by Michael Benson, whom we recently interviewed.


"The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible."

"Two possibilities exist: Either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying."

"I don't believe in astrology; I'm a Sagittarius and we're skeptical."

"In my life I have found two things of priceless worth - learning and loving. Nothing else - not fame, not power, not achievement for its own sake - can possible have the same lasting value. For when your life is over, if you can say 'I have learned' and 'I have loved,' you will also be able to say 'I have been happy."


In a letter in 1956, Clarke predicted satellite TV and GPS. You can read the transcript at Letters of Note: "I told you so!".


Additional Info

  • Birthday Date: Tuesday, 16 December 2014
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