Writer Arthur C. Clarke dies at 90
- By RAVI NESSMAN, Associated Press Writer
35 minutes ago
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - Arthur C. Clarke, a visionary science fiction
writer who wrote "2001: A Space Odyssey" and won worldwide acclaim
with more than 100 books on space, science and the future, died
Wednesday, an aide said. He was 90.
Clarke, who had battled debilitating post-polio syndrome for years,
died at 1:30 a.m. in his adopted home of Sri Lanka after suffering
breathing problems, aide Rohan De Silva said.
The 1968 story "2001: A Space Odyssey" written simultaneously as a
novel and screenplay with director Stanley Kubrick was a
frightening prophesy of artificial intelligence run amok.
One year after it made Clarke a household name in fiction, the
scientist entered the homes of millions of Americans alongside Walter
Cronkite anchoring television coverage of the Apollo mission to the
Clarke also was credited with the concept of communications
satellites in 1945, decades before they became a reality.
Geosynchronous orbits, which keep satellites in a fixed position
relative to the ground, are called Clarke orbits.
His non-fiction volumes on space travel and his explorations of the
Great Barrier Reef and Indian Ocean earned him respect in the world
of science, and in 1976 he became an honorary fellow of the American
Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
But it was his writing that shot him to his greatest fame and that
gave him the greatest fulfillment.
"Sometimes I am asked how I would like to be remembered," Clarke said
recently. "I have had a diverse career as a writer, underwater
explorer and space promoter. Of all these I would like to be
remembered as a writer."
From 1950, he began a prolific output of both fiction and non-
fiction, sometimes publishing three books in a year. He published his
best-selling "3001: The Final Odyssey" when he was 79.
A statement from Clarke's office said that Clarke had recently
reviewed the final manuscript of his latest novel. "The Last
Theorem," co-written with Frederik Pohl, will be published later this
year, the statement said.
Some of his best-known books are "Childhood's End," 1953; "The City
and The Stars," 1956, "The Nine Billion Names of God,"
1967; "Rendezvous with Rama," 1973; "Imperial Earth," 1975; and "The
Songs of Distant Earth," 1986.
When Clarke and Kubrick got together to develop a movie about space,
they used as basic ideas several of Clarke's shorter pieces,
including "The Sentinel," written in 1948, and "Encounter in the
Dawn." As work progressed on the screenplay, Clarke also wrote a
novel of the story. He followed it up with "2010," "2061," and "3001:
The Final Odyssey."
In 1989, two decades after the Apollo 11 moon landings, Clarke
wrote: "2001 was written in an age which now lies beyond one of the
great divides in human history; we are sundered from it forever by
the moment when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped out on to the
Sea of Tranquility. Now history and fiction have become inexorably
Clarke won the Nebula Award of the Science Fiction Writers of America
in 1972, 1974 and 1979; the Hugo Award of the World Science Fiction
Convention in 1974 and 1980, and in 1986 became Grand Master of the
Science Fiction Writers of America. He was awarded the CBE in 1989.
Born in Minehead, western England, on Dec. 16, 1917, the son of a
farmer, Arthur Charles Clark became addicted to science fiction after
buying his first copies of the pulp magazine "Amazing Stories" at
Woolworth's. He read English writers H.G. Wells and Olaf Stapledon
and began writing for his school magazine in his teens.
Clarke went to work as a clerk in Her Majesty's Exchequer and Audit
Department in London, where he joined the British Interplanetary
Society and wrote his first short stories and scientific articles on
It was not until after the World War II that Clarke received a
bachelor of science degree in physics and mathematics from King's
College in London.
In the wartime Royal Air Force, he was put in charge of a new radar
But it was an RAF memo he wrote in 1945 about the future of
communications that led him to fame. It was about the possibility of
using satellites to revolutionize communications an idea whose time
had decidedly not come.
Clarke later sent it to a publication called Wireless World, which
almost rejected it as too far-fetched.
Clarke married in 1953, and was divorced in 1964. He had no children.
He moved to the Indian Ocean island of Sri Lanka in 1956 after
embarking on a study of the Great Barrier Reef.
Clarke, who had battled debilitating post-polio syndrome since the
1960s and sometimes used a wheelchair, discovered that scuba-diving
approximated the feeling of weightlessness that astronauts experience
in space. He remained a diving enthusiast, running his own scuba
venture into old age.
"I'm perfectly operational underwater," he once said.
Clarke was linked by his computer with friends and fans around the
world, spending each morning answering e-mails and browsing the
At a 90th birthday party thrown for Clarke in December, the author
said he had three wishes: for Sri Lanka's raging civil war to end,
for the world to embrace cleaner sources of energy and for evidence
of extraterrestrial beings to be discovered.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Clarke once said he did
not regret having never followed his novels into space, adding that
he had arranged to have DNA from strands of his hair sent into orbit.
"One day, some super civilization may encounter this relic from the
vanished species and I may exist in another time," he said. "Move
over, Stephen King."