Arthur C. Clarke

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Arthur C. Clarke

Arthur C. Clarke 1965.jpg
Clarke in February 1965, on one of the sets of 2001: A Space Odyssey
BornArthur Charles Clarke
(1917-12-16)16 December 1917
Minehead, Somerset, England, United Kingdom
Died19 March 2008(2008-03-19) (aged 90)
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Pen nameCharles Willis
E. G. O'Brien [1] [2]
OccupationWriter, inventor, futurist
Alma mater King's College London
Period1946–2008 (professional fiction writer)
Genre Hard science fiction
Popular science
Subject Science
Notable works
Marilyn Mayfield
(m. 1953;div. 1964)

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

Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society fellowship of a learned society

Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society (FRAS) is the style granted to members of the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) on successful application.

Futurists are people whose specialty or interest is futurology or the attempt to systematically explore predictions and possibilities about the future and how they can emerge from the present, whether that of human society in particular or of life on Earth in general.


He is famous for being co-writer of the screenplay for the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey , widely considered to be one of the most influential films of all time. [4] [5] Clarke was a science writer, who was both an avid populariser of space travel and a futurist of uncanny ability. On these subjects he wrote over a dozen books and many essays, which appeared in various popular magazines. In 1961 he was awarded the Kalinga Prize, an award which is given by UNESCO for popularising science. These along with his science fiction writings eventually earned him the moniker "Prophet of the Space Age". [6] His other science fiction writings earned him a number of Hugo and Nebula awards, which along with a large readership made him one of the towering figures of science fiction. For many years Clarke, Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov were known as the "Big Three" of science fiction. [7]

<i>2001: A Space Odyssey</i> (film) 1968 film by Stanley Kubrick

2001: A Space Odyssey is a 1968 epic science fiction film produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick. The screenplay was written by Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, and was inspired by Clarke's short story "The Sentinel". A novel also called 2001: A Space Odyssey, written concurrently with the screenplay, was published soon after the film was released. The film, which follows a voyage to Jupiter with the sentient computer HAL after the discovery of a mysterious black monolith affecting human evolution, deals with themes of existentialism, human evolution, technology, artificial intelligence, and the possibility of extraterrestrial life. The film is noted for its scientifically accurate depiction of spaceflight, pioneering special effects, and ambiguous imagery. Sound and dialogue are used sparingly and often in place of traditional cinematic and narrative techniques. The soundtrack incorporates a number of pieces of classical music, among them Also sprach Zarathustra by Richard Strauss, "The Blue Danube" by Johann Strauss II, and works by Aram Khachaturian and György Ligeti.

Kalinga Prize award

The Kalinga Prize for the Popularization of Science is an award given by UNESCO for exceptional skill in presenting scientific ideas to lay people. It was created in 1952, following a donation from Biju Patnaik, Founder President of the Kalinga Foundation Trust in India.

UNESCO Specialised agency of the United Nations

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) based in Paris. Its declared purpose is to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through educational, scientific, and cultural reforms in order to increase universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and human rights along with fundamental freedom proclaimed in the United Nations Charter. It is the successor of the League of Nations' International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation.

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 1946–47 and again in 1951–53. [9]

Human spaceflight space travel with humans aboard spacecraft

Human spaceflight is space travel with a crew or passengers aboard the spacecraft. Spacecraft carrying people may be operated directly, by human crew, or it may be either remotely operated from ground stations on Earth or be autonomous, able to carry out a specific mission with no human involvement.

British Interplanetary Society Space advocacy organization

The British Interplanetary Society (BIS), founded in Liverpool in 1933 by Philip E. Cleator, is the oldest space advocacy organisation in the world. Its aim is exclusively to support and promote astronautics and space exploration.

Satellite Human-made object put into an orbit

In the context of spaceflight, a satellite is an artificial object which has been intentionally placed into orbit. Such objects are sometimes called artificial satellites to distinguish them from natural satellites such as Earth's Moon.

Clarke emigrated from England to Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) in 1956, largely 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 fame later on in the 1980s, from being the host of several television shows such as Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World . He lived in Sri Lanka until his death. [11]

Sri Lanka Island country in South Asia

Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, is an island country in South Asia, located in the Indian Ocean to the southwest of the Bay of Bengal and to the southeast of the Arabian Sea. The island is geographically separated from the Indian subcontinent by the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait. The legislative capital, Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, is a suburb of the commercial capital and largest city, Colombo.

Scuba diving Diving while breathing from self-contained underwater breathing apparatus

Scuba diving is a mode of underwater diving where the diver uses a self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (scuba), which is completely independent of surface supply, to breathe underwater. Scuba divers carry their own source of breathing gas, usually compressed air, allowing them greater independence and freedom of movement than surface-supplied divers, and longer underwater endurance than breath-hold divers. Although the use of compressed air is common, a new mixture called enriched air (Nitrox) has been gaining popularity due to its benefit of reduced nitrogen intake during repetitive dives. Open circuit scuba systems discharge the breathing gas into the environment as it is exhaled, and consist of one or more diving cylinders containing breathing gas at high pressure which is supplied to the diver through a regulator. They may include additional cylinders for range extension, decompression gas or emergency breathing gas. Closed-circuit or semi-closed circuit rebreather scuba systems allow recycling of exhaled gases. The volume of gas used is reduced compared to that of open circuit, so a smaller cylinder or cylinders may be used for an equivalent dive duration. Rebreathers extend the time spent underwater compared to open circuit for the same gas consumption; they produce fewer bubbles and less noise than open circuit scuba which makes them attractive to covert military divers to avoid detection, scientific divers to avoid disturbing marine animals, and media divers to avoid bubble interference.

Trincomalee City in Sri Lanka

Trincomalee also known as Gokanna/Gokarna, is the administrative headquarters of the Trincomalee District and major resort port city of Eastern Province, Sri Lanka. Located on the east coast of the island overlooking the Trincomalee Harbour, 237 kilometres (147 mi) north-east of Colombo, 182 kilometres (113 mi) south-east of Jaffna and 111 kilometres (69 mi) miles north of Batticaloa, Trincomalee has been one of the main centres of Sri Lankan Tamil language speaking culture on the island for over two millennia. With a population of 99,135, the city is built on a peninsula of the same name, which divides its inner and outer harbours. People from Trincomalee are known as Trincomalians and the local authority is Trincomalee Urban Council. Trincomalee city is home to the famous Koneswaram temple alluded to in its historic Tamil name Thirukonamalai and is home to other historical monuments such as the Bhadrakali Amman Temple, Trincomalee, the Trincomalee Hindu Cultural Hall and, opened in 1897, the Trincomalee Hindu College. Trincomalee is also the site of the Trincomalee railway station and an ancient ferry service to Jaffna and the south side of the harbour at Muttur.

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]

The dignity of Knight Bachelor is the basic and lowest rank of a man who has been knighted by the monarch but not as a member of one of the organised orders of chivalry; it is a part of the British honours system. Knights Bachelor are the most ancient sort of British knight, but Knights Bachelor rank below knights of chivalric orders.

Sri Lankabhimanya is the highest national honour of Sri Lanka awarded by the President of Sri Lanka on behalf of the Government. It is the country's highest civil honour and is conferred upon "those who have rendered exceptionally outstanding and most distinguished service to the nation". The honour can only be held by five Sri Lankans at any given time, and may also be conferred posthumously; A. T. Ariyaratne is the sole currently living recipient of the award. Since 1986, it has been awarded 8 times.


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. 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]

Minehead town in Somerset, England

Minehead is a coastal town and civil parish in Somerset, England. It lies on the south bank of the Bristol Channel, 21 miles (34 km) north-west of the county town of Taunton, 12 miles (19 km) from the border with the county of Devon and in proximity of the Exmoor National Park. The parish of Minehead has a population of approximately 11,981 making it the most populous town in the West Somerset local government district, which in turn, is the worst area in the country for social mobility. This figure includes Alcombe and Woodcombe, suburban villages which have been subsumed into Minehead.

Somerset County of England

Somerset is a county in South West England which borders Gloucestershire and Bristol to the north, Wiltshire to the east, Dorset to the south-east and Devon to the south-west. It is bounded to the north and west by the Severn Estuary and the Bristol Channel, its coastline facing southeastern Wales. Its traditional border with Gloucestershire is the River Avon. Somerset's county town is Taunton.

Bishops Lydeard village in the United Kingdom

Bishops Lydeard is a village and civil parish located in Somerset, England, 5 miles (8 km) north-west of Taunton in the district of Taunton Deane. The civil parish had a population of 2,839 persons as recorded in the 2011 census; this figure however includes the village of Cotford St Luke.

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 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] He and some fellow science fiction writers 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]

Second World War

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 semi-autobiographical 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 non-fiction 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 CBS for 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, he and his friend Mike Wilson 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, which won all the main genre awards [37] and spawned sequels that along with the 2001 series formed the backbone of his later career.

Clarke receiving Marconi International Fellowship Award from Prince Claus of the Netherlands in 1982 Prins Claus en Arthur C Clarke (1982).jpg
Clarke receiving Marconi International Fellowship Award from Prince Claus of the Netherlands in 1982

In 1986 Clarke was named a Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America. [38]

In 1988 he was diagnosed with post-polio syndrome, having originally contracted polio in 1962, and needed to use a wheelchair most of the time thereafter. [31] Clarke was for many years a Vice-Patron of the British Polio Fellowship. [39]

In the 1989 Queen's Birthday Honours Clarke was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) "for services to British cultural interests in Sri Lanka". [12] The same year he became the first Chancellor of the International Space University, serving from 1989 to 2004. He also served as Chancellor of Moratuwa University in Sri Lanka from 1979 to 2002.

In 1994, Clarke appeared in a science fiction film; he portrayed himself in the telefilm Without Warning , an American production about an apocalyptic alien first-contact scenario presented in the form of a faux newscast.

Clarke also became active in promoting the protection of gorillas and became a patron of the Gorilla Organization which fights for the preservation of gorillas. [40] When tantalum mining for cell phone manufacture threatened the gorillas in 2001, he lent his voice to their cause. [41] The dive shop that he set up continues to operate from Trincomalee through the Arthur C Clarke foundation. [42]

Television series host

In the 1980s Clarke became well known[ citation needed ] to many for his television programmes Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World , Arthur C. Clarke's World of Strange Powers and Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious Universe .

Personal life

On a trip to Florida in 1953 [1] Clarke met and quickly married Marilyn Mayfield, a 22-year-old American divorcee with a young son. They separated permanently after six months, although the divorce was not finalised until 1964. [43] "The marriage was incompatible from the beginning", said Clarke. [43] Clarke never remarried, but was close to a Sri Lankan man, Leslie Ekanayake (13 July 1947 – 4 July 1977), whom Clarke called his "only perfect friend of a lifetime" in the dedication to his novel The Fountains of Paradise . [lower-alpha 1] Clarke is buried with Ekanayake, who predeceased him by three decades, in Colombo's central cemetery. [44] In his biography of Stanley Kubrick, John Baxter cites Clarke's homosexuality as a reason why he relocated, due to more tolerant laws with regard to homosexuality in Sri Lanka. [45] Journalists who enquired of Clarke whether he was gay were told, "No, merely mildly cheerful." [31] However, Michael Moorcock wrote:

Everyone knew he was gay. In the 1950s I'd go out drinking with his boyfriend. We met his protégés, western and eastern, and their families, people who had only the most generous praise for his kindness. Self-absorbed he might be and a teetotaller, but an impeccable gent through and through. [46]

In an interview in the July 1986 issue of Playboy magazine, when asked if he had had a bisexual experience, Clarke stated "Of course. Who hasn't?" [47] In his obituary, Clarke's friend Kerry O'Quinn wrote: "Yes, Arthur was gay ... As Isaac Asimov once told me, 'I think he simply found he preferred men.' Arthur didn't publicise his sexuality—that wasn't the focus of his life—but if asked, he was open and honest." [48]

Clarke accumulated a vast collection of manuscripts and personal memoirs, maintained by his brother Fred Clarke in Taunton, Somerset, England, and referred to as the "Clarkives". Clarke said that some of his private diaries will not be published until 30 years after his death. When asked why they were sealed, he answered, "Well, there might be all sorts of embarrassing things in them." [3]


On 26 May 2000 he was made a Knight Bachelor "for services to literature" at a ceremony in Colombo. [14] [lower-alpha 2] [49] The award of a knighthood had been announced in the 1998 New Year Honours list, [13] [50] but investiture with the award had been delayed, at Clarke's request, because of an accusation, by the British tabloid The Sunday Mirror , of paedophilia. [51] [52] The charge was subsequently found to be baseless by the Sri Lankan police. [53] [54] According to The Daily Telegraph (London), the Mirror subsequently published an apology, and Clarke chose not to sue for defamation. [55] [56] Clarke himself said that "I take an extremely dim view of people mucking about with boys", and Rupert Murdoch promised him the reporters responsible would never work in Fleet Street again. [57] Clarke was then duly knighted.

Later years

Clarke at his home in Sri Lanka, 2005 Clarke sm.jpg
Clarke at his home in Sri Lanka, 2005

Although he and his home were unharmed by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake tsunami, his "Arthur C. Clarke Diving School" (also called "Underwater safaris") [58] at Hikkaduwa near Galle was destroyed. [59] He made humanitarian appeals, and the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation worked towards better disaster notification systems. [60]

Because of his post-polio deficits, which limited his ability to travel and gave him halting speech, most of Clarke's communications in his last years were in the form of recorded addresses. In July 2007, he provided a video address for the Robert A. Heinlein Centennial in which he closed his comments with a goodbye to his fans. In September 2007, he provided a video greeting for NASA's Cassini probe's flyby of Iapetus (which plays an important role in the book of 2001: A Space Odyssey ). [61] In December 2007 on his 90th birthday, Clarke recorded a video message to his friends and fans bidding them good-bye. [62]

Clarke died in Sri Lanka on 19 March 2008 after suffering from respiratory failure, according to Rohan de Silva, one of his aides. [31] [63] [64] [65] His aide described the cause as respiratory complications and heart failure stemming from post-polio syndrome. [66]

Just hours before Clarke's death a massive gamma-ray burst (GRB) reached Earth. Known as GRB 080319B, the burst set a new record as the farthest object that could be seen from Earth with the naked eye. [67] It occurred about 7.5 billion years ago (roughly equal to half the time since the Big Bang), taking the light that long to reach Earth. [67] Larry Sessions, a science writer for Sky and Telescope magazine blogging on, suggested that the burst be named "The Clarke Event". [68] [69] American Atheist Magazine wrote of the idea: "It would be a fitting tribute to a man who contributed so much, and helped lift our eyes and our minds to a cosmos once thought to be province only of gods." [70]

A few days before he died, he had reviewed the manuscript of his final work, The Last Theorem , on which he had collaborated by e-mail with his contemporary Frederik Pohl. [71] The book was published after Clarke's death. [72] Clarke was buried alongside Leslie Ekanayake in Colombo in traditional Sri Lankan fashion on 22 March. His younger brother, Fred Clarke, and his Sri Lankan adoptive family were among the thousands in attendance. [73]

Science fiction writer

Clarke's novella "The Road to the Sea" was originally published in Two Complete Science-Adventure Books in 1951 as "Seeker of the Sphinx" Two complete science adventure books 1951spr n2.jpg
Clarke's novella "The Road to the Sea" was originally published in Two Complete Science-Adventure Books in 1951 as "Seeker of the Sphinx"


While Clarke had a few stories published in fanzines, between 1937 and 1945, his first professional sale appeared in Astounding Science Fiction in 1946: "Loophole" was published in April, while "Rescue Party", his first sale, was published in May. [lower-alpha 3] Along with his writing Clarke briefly worked as assistant editor of Science Abstracts (1949) before devoting himself in 1951 to full-time writing.

Clarke began carving out his reputation as a "scientific" science fiction writer with his first science fiction novel, Against the Fall of Night , published as a novella in 1948. It was very popular and considered ground-breaking work for some of the concepts it contained. Clarke revised and expanded the novella into a full novel which was published in 1953. Clarke would later rewrite and expand this work a third time to become The City and the Stars in 1956, which rapidly became a definitive must-read in the field. His third science fiction novel, Childhood's End , was also published in 1953, cementing his popularity. Clarke capped the first phase of his writing career with his sixth novel, A Fall of Moondust , in 1961, which is also an acknowledged classic of the period.

During this time, Clarke corresponded with C. S. Lewis in the 1940s and 1950s and they once met in an Oxford pub, The Eastgate, to discuss science fiction and space travel. Clarke voiced great praise for Lewis upon his death, saying that the Ransom trilogy was one of the few works of science fiction that should be considered literature. [74]

"The Sentinel"

Clarke's novelette "Jupiter Five" was cover-featured on the May 1953 issue of If If 195305.jpg
Clarke's novelette "Jupiter Five" was cover-featured on the May 1953 issue of If

In 1948 he wrote "The Sentinel" for a BBC competition. Though the story was rejected, it changed the course of Clarke's career. Not only was it the basis for 2001: A Space Odyssey , but "The Sentinel" also introduced a more cosmic element to Clarke's work. Many of Clarke's later works feature a technologically advanced but still-prejudiced mankind being confronted by a superior alien intelligence. In the cases of Childhood's End , and the 2001 series, this encounter produces a conceptual breakthrough that accelerates humanity into the next stage of its evolution. This also applies in the far-distant past (but our future) in The City and the Stars (and its original version, Against the Fall of Night).

In Clarke's authorised biography, Neil McAleer writes that: "many readers and critics still consider Childhood's End Arthur C. Clarke's best novel." [43] But Clarke did not use ESP in any of his later stories, saying "I've always been interested in ESP and, of course, Childhood's End was about that. But I've grown disillusioned, partly because after all this time they're still arguing about whether these things happen. I suspect that telepathy does happen." [75]

A collection of early essays was published in The View from Serendip (1977), which also included one short piece of fiction, "When the Twerms Came". Clarke also wrote short stories under the pseudonyms of E. G. O'Brien and Charles Willis. [76] Almost all of his short stories can be found in the book The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke (2001).

"Big Three"

Clarke as depicted in Amazing Stories in 1953. Arthur C, Clarke Amazing 5306.jpg
Clarke as depicted in Amazing Stories in 1953.
Clarke's novelette "The Songs of Distant Earth", the cover story for the June 1958 issue of If, was expanded to novel length almost three decades later If 195806.jpg
Clarke's novelette "The Songs of Distant Earth", the cover story for the June 1958 issue of If , was expanded to novel length almost three decades later

For much of the later 20th century, Clarke, Asimov, and Heinlein were informally known as the "Big Three" of science fiction writers. [7] Clarke and Heinlein began writing to each other after The Exploration of Space was published in 1951, and first met in person the following year. They remained on cordial terms for many years, including visits in the United States and Sri Lanka.

Clarke and Asimov first met in New York City in 1953, and they traded friendly insults and gibes for decades. They established an oral agreement, the "Clarke–Asimov Treaty", that when asked who was better, the two would say Clarke was the better science fiction writer and Asimov was the better science writer. In 1972, Clarke put the "treaty" on paper in his dedication to Report on Planet Three and Other Speculations. [43] [77]

In 1984, Clarke testified before Congress against the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). [78] Later, at the home of Larry Niven in California, a concerned Heinlein attacked Clarke's views on United States foreign and space policy (especially the SDI), vigorously advocating a strong defence posture. Although the two later reconciled formally, they remained distant until Heinlein's death in 1988. [43]

2001 series of novels

2001: A Space Odyssey, Clarke's most famous work, was extended well beyond the 1968 movie as the Space Odyssey series. In 1982, Clarke wrote a sequel to 2001 titled 2010: Odyssey Two , which was made into a film in 1984. Clarke wrote two further sequels that have not been adapted into motion pictures: 2061: Odyssey Three (published in 1987) and 3001: The Final Odyssey (published in 1997).

2061: Odyssey Three involves a visit to Halley's Comet on its next plunge through the Inner Solar System and a spaceship crash on the Jovian moon Europa. The whereabouts of astronaut Dave Bowman (the "Star Child"), the artificial intelligence HAL 9000, and the development of native life on Europa, protected by the alien Monolith, are revealed.

Finally, in 3001: The Final Odyssey, astronaut Frank Poole's freeze-dried body, found by a spaceship beyond the orbit of Neptune, is revived by advanced medical science. The novel details the threat posed to humanity by the alien monoliths, whose actions are not always as their builders had intended.

2001: A Space Odyssey

Clarke's first venture into film was 2001: A Space Odyssey , directed by Stanley Kubrick. Kubrick and Clarke had met in New York City in 1964 to discuss the possibility of a collaborative film project. As the idea developed, they decided to loosely base the story on Clarke's short story, The Sentinel , written in 1948 as an entry in a BBC short story competition. Originally, Clarke was going to write the screenplay for the film, but Kubrick suggested during one of their brainstorming meetings that before beginning on the actual script, they should let their imaginations soar free by writing a novel first, on which they would base the film. "This is more or less the way it worked out, though toward the end, novel and screenplay were being written simultaneously, with feedback in both directions. Thus I rewrote some sections after seeing the movie rushes—a rather expensive method of literary creation, which few other authors can have enjoyed." [79] The novel ended up being published a few months after the release of the movie.

Due to the hectic schedule of the film's production, Kubrick and Clarke had difficulty collaborating on the book. Clarke completed a draft of the novel at the end of 1964 with the plan to publish in 1965 in advance of the film's release in 1966. After many delays the film was released in the spring of 1968, before the book was completed. The book was credited to Clarke alone. Clarke later complained that this had the effect of making the book into a novelisation, that Kubrick had manipulated circumstances to downplay Clarke's authorship. For these and other reasons, the details of the story differ slightly from the book to the movie. The film contains little explanation for the events taking place. Clarke, on the other hand, wrote thorough explanations of "cause and effect" for the events in the novel. James Randi later recounted that upon seeing the premiere of 2001, Clarke left the theatre at the intermission in tears, after having watched an eleven-minute scene (which did not make it into general release) where an astronaut is doing nothing more than jogging inside the spaceship, which was Kubrick's idea of showing the audience how boring space travels could be. [80]

In 1972, Clarke published The Lost Worlds of 2001, which included his accounts of the production, and alternative versions of key scenes. The "special edition" of the novel A Space Odyssey (released in 1999) contains an introduction by Clarke in which he documents the events leading to the release of the novel and film.

2010: Odyssey Two

In 1982 Clarke continued the 2001 epic with a sequel, 2010: Odyssey Two . This novel was also made into a film, 2010 , directed by Peter Hyams for release in 1984. Because of the political environment in America in the 1980s, the film presents a Cold War theme, with the looming tensions of nuclear warfare not featured in the novel. The film was not considered to be as revolutionary or artistic as 2001, but the reviews were still positive.

Clarke's email correspondence with Hyams was published in 1984. [81] Titled The Odyssey File: The Making of 2010, and co-authored with Hyams, it illustrates his fascination with the then-pioneering medium of email and its use for them to communicate on an almost daily basis at the time of planning and production of the film while living on opposite sides of the world. The book also included Clarke's personal list of the best science-fiction films ever made.

Clarke appeared in the film, first as the man feeding the pigeons while Dr. Heywood Floyd is engaged in a conversation in front of the White House. Later, in the hospital scene with David Bowman's mother, an image of the cover of Time portrays Clarke as the American President and Kubrick as the Soviet Premier.

Rendezvous with Rama

Clarke's award-winning novel Rendezvous with Rama (1973) was optioned for filmmaking in the early 21st century [82] [83] but this motion picture is in "development hell" as of 2014. In the early 2000s, the actor Morgan Freeman expressed his desire to produce a movie based on Rendezvous with Rama. After a drawn-out development process – which Freeman attributed to difficulties in getting financing – it appeared that in 2003 this project might be proceeding, but this is very dubious. [82] The film was to be produced by Freeman's production company, Revelations Entertainment, and David Fincher has been touted on Revelations' Rama web page as far back as 2001 as the film's director. [83] After years of no progress, Fincher stated in an interview in late 2007 (in which he also credited the novel as being influential on the films Alien and Star Trek: The Motion Picture ) that he is still attached to helm. [84] Revelations indicated that Stel Pavlou had written the adaptation.

In late 2008, Fincher stated the movie is unlikely to be made. "It looks like it's not going to happen. There's no script and as you know, Morgan Freeman's not in the best of health right now. We've been trying to do it but it's probably not going to happen." [85] However, in 2010 it was announced that the film was still planned for future production and both Freeman and Fincher mentioned it as still needing a worthy script. [86]

Science writer

Clarke published a number of non-fiction books with essays, speeches, addresses, etc. Several of his non-fiction books are composed of chapters that can stand on their own as separate essays.

Space travel

In particular, Clarke was a populariser of the concept of space travel. In 1950 he wrote Interplanetary Flight , a book outlining the basics of space flight for laymen. Later books about space travel included The Exploration of Space (1951), The Challenge of the Spaceship (1959), Voices from the Sky (1965), The Promise of Space (1968, rev. ed. 1970) and Report on Planet Three (1972) among others.


His books on space travel usually included chapters about other aspects of science and technology, such as computers and bioengineering. He predicted telecommunication satellites (albeit serviced by astronauts in space suits, who would replace the satellite's vacuum tubes as they burned out). [87]

His many predictions culminated in 1958 when he began a series of magazine essays that eventually became Profiles of the Future, published in book form in 1962. [88] A timetable [89] up to the year 2100 describes inventions and ideas including such things as a "global library" for 2005. The same work also contained "Clarke's First Law" and text that became Clarke's three laws in later editions. [43]

In a 1959 essay Clarke predicted global satellite TV broadcasts that would cross national boundaries indiscriminately and would bring hundreds of channels available anywhere in the world. He also envisioned a "personal transceiver, so small and compact that every man carries one." He wrote: "the time will come when we will be able to call a person anywhere on Earth merely by dialling a number." Such a device would also, in Clarke's vision, include means for global positioning so that "no one need ever again be lost." Later, in Profiles of the Future, he predicted the advent of such a device taking place in the mid-1980s. [88]

1974 ABC interview with Clarke in which he describes a future of ubiquitous computing reminiscent of the modern Internet

In a 1974 interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the interviewer asked Clarke how he believed the computer would change the future for the everyday person, and what life would be like in the year 2001. Clarke accurately predicted many things that became reality, including online banking, online shopping, and other now commonplace things. Responding to a question about how the interviewer's son's life would be different, Clarke responded: "He 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 friendly local computer and get all the information he needs, for his everyday life, like his bank statements, his theatre 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." [90]

An extensive selection of Clarke's essays and book chapters (from 1934 to 1998; 110 pieces, 63 of them previously uncollected in his books) can be found in the book Greetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds! (2000), together with a new introduction and many prefatory notes. Another collection of essays, all previously collected, is By Space Possessed (1993). Clarke's technical papers, together with several essays and extensive autobiographical material, are collected in Ascent to Orbit: A Scientific Autobiography (1984).

Geostationary communications satellite

Geostationary or Clarke orbit Geostat.gif
Geostationary or Clarke orbit

Clarke contributed to the popularity of the idea that geostationary satellites would be ideal telecommunications relays. He first described this in a letter to the editor of Wireless World in February 1945 [91] and elaborated on the concept in a paper titled Extra-Terrestrial Relays – Can Rocket Stations Give Worldwide Radio Coverage?, published in Wireless World in October 1945. [8] The geostationary orbit is now sometimes known as the Clarke Orbit or the Clarke Belt in his honour. [92] [93] [94]

It is not clear that this article was actually the inspiration for the modern telecommunications satellite. According to John R. Pierce, of Bell Labs, who was involved in the Echo satellite and Telstar projects, he gave a talk upon the subject in 1954 (published in 1955), using ideas that were "in the air", but was not aware of Clarke's article at the time. [95] In an interview given shortly before his death, Clarke was asked whether he had ever suspected that one day communications satellites would become so important; he replied:

I'm often asked why I didn't try to patent the idea of a communications satellite. My answer is always, 'A patent is really a license to be sued.' [96]

Though different from Clarke's idea of telecom relay, the idea of communicating via satellites in geostationary orbit itself had been described earlier. For example, the concept of geostationary satellites was described in Hermann Oberth's 1923 book Die Rakete zu den Planetenräumen (The Rocket into Interplanetary Space), and then the idea of radio communication by means of those satellites in Herman Potočnik's (written under the pseudonym Hermann Noordung) 1928 book Das Problem der Befahrung des Weltraums – der Raketen-Motor (The Problem of Space Travel  The Rocket Motor), sections: Providing for Long Distance Communications and Safety, [lower-alpha 4] and (possibly referring to the idea of relaying messages via satellite, but not that 3 would be optimal) Observing and Researching the Earth's Surface, published in Berlin. [97] [lower-alpha 5] Clarke acknowledged the earlier concept in his book Profiles of the Future. [lower-alpha 6]

Undersea explorer

Clarke was an avid scuba diver and a member of the Underwater Explorers Club. In addition to writing, Clarke set up several diving-related ventures with his business partner Mike Wilson. In 1956, while scuba diving, Wilson and Clarke uncovered ruined masonry, architecture and idol images of the sunken original Koneswaram temple – including carved columns with flower insignias, and stones in the form of elephant heads – spread on the shallow surrounding seabed. [98] [99] Other discoveries included Chola bronzes from the original shrine, and these discoveries were described in Clarke's 1957 book The Reefs of Taprobane. [100] In 1961, while filming off Great Basses Reef, Wilson found a wreck and retrieved silver coins. Plans to dive on the wreck the following year were stopped when Clarke developed paralysis, ultimately diagnosed as polio. A year later, Clarke observed the salvage from the shore and the surface. The ship, ultimately identified as belonging to the Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb, yielded fused bags of silver rupees, cannon, and other artefacts, carefully documented, became the basis for The Treasure of the Great Reef. [43] [101] Living in Sri Lanka and learning its history also inspired the backdrop for his novel The Fountains of Paradise in which he described a space elevator. This, he believed, would make rocket-based access to space obsolete and, more than geostationary satellites, would ultimately be his scientific legacy. [102]


On religion

Themes of religion and spirituality appear in much of Clarke's writing. He said: "Any path to knowledge is a path to God—or Reality, whichever word one prefers to use." [103] He described himself as "fascinated by the concept of God". J. B. S. Haldane, near the end of his life, suggested in a personal letter to Clarke that Clarke should receive a prize in theology for being one of the few people to write anything new on the subject, and went on to say that if Clarke's writings did not contain multiple contradictory theological views, he might have been a menace. [104] When he entered the Royal Air Force, Clarke insisted that his dog tags be marked "pantheist" rather than the default, Church of England, [43] and in a 1991 essay entitled "Credo", described himself as a logical positivist from the age of ten. [104] In 2000, Clarke told the Sri Lankan newspaper, The Island, "I don't believe in God or an afterlife," [105] and he identified himself as an atheist. [106] He was honoured as a Humanist Laureate in the International Academy of Humanism. [107] He has also described himself as a "crypto-Buddhist", insisting that Buddhism is not a religion. [108] He displayed little interest about religion early in his life, for example, only discovering a few months after marrying that his wife had strong Presbyterian beliefs.

A famous quotation of Clarke's is often cited: "One of the great tragedies of mankind is that morality has been hijacked by religion." [108] He was quoted in Popular Science in 2004 as saying of religion: "Most malevolent and persistent of all mind viruses. We should get rid of it as quick as we can." [109] In a three-day "dialogue on man and his world" with Alan Watts, Clarke stated that he was biased against religion and said that he could not forgive religions for what he perceived as their inability to prevent atrocities and wars over time. [110] In his introduction to the penultimate episode of Mysterious World, entitled "Strange Skies", Clarke said: "I sometimes think that the universe is a machine designed for the perpetual astonishment of astronomers," reflecting the dialogue of the episode, in which he stated this concept more broadly, referring to "mankind". Near the very end of that same episode, the last segment of which covered the Star of Bethlehem, he said that his favourite theory [111] was that it might be a pulsar. Given that pulsars were discovered in the interval between his writing the short story, "The Star" (1955), and making Mysterious World (1980), and given the more recent discovery of pulsar PSR B1913+16, he said: "How romantic, if even now, we can hear the dying voice of a star, which heralded the Christian era." [111]

Clarke left written instructions for a funeral that stated: "Absolutely no religious rites of any kind, relating to any religious faith, should be associated with my funeral." [112]


Regarding freedom of information Clarke believed "In the struggle for freedom of information, technology, not politics, will be the ultimate decider".

Clarke also wrote "It is not easy to see how the more extreme forms of nationalism can long survive when men have seen the Earth in its true perspective as a single small globe against the stars." [113]

Regarding human jobs being replaced by robots Clarke said "Any teacher that can be replaced by a machine should be!" [113]

Clarke supported the use of renewable energy saying "I would like to see us kick our current addiction to oil, and adopt clean energy sources... Climate change has now added a new sense of urgency. Our civilisation depends on energy, but we can't allow oil and coal to slowly bake our planet." [113]

Intelligent life

Clarke believed "The best proof that there's intelligent life in outer space is the fact that it hasn't come here...the fact that we have not yet found the slightest evidence for life — much less intelligence — beyond this Earth does not surprise or disappoint me in the least. Our technology must still be laughably primitive; we may well be like jungle savages listening for the throbbing of tom-toms, while the ether around them carries more words per second than they could utter in a lifetime" [113]

Clarke also believed "Two possibilities exist: Either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying." [113]

Paranormal phenomena

Early in his career, Clarke had a fascination with the paranormal and stated that it was part of the inspiration for his novel Childhood's End. Citing the numerous promising paranormal claims that were shown to be fraudulent, Clarke described his earlier openness to the paranormal having turned to being "an almost total sceptic" by the time of his 1992 biography. [43] During interviews, both in 1993 and 2004–2005, he stated that he did not believe in reincarnation, saying that there was no mechanism to make it possible, though he stated "I'm always paraphrasing J. B. S. Haldane: 'The universe is not only stranger than we imagine, it's stranger than we can imagine.'" [114] [115] He described the idea of reincarnation as fascinating, but favoured a finite existence. [116]

Clarke was well known for his television series investigating paranormal phenomena – Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World (1980), Arthur C. Clarke's World of Strange Powers (1985) and Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious Universe (1994) – enough to be parodied in an episode of The Goodies in which his show is cancelled after it is claimed that he does not exist.

In Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World he gives three kinds of "mysteries".

Themes, style and influences

Clarke's work is marked by an optimistic view of science empowering mankind's exploration of the Solar System and the world's oceans. His images of the future often feature a Utopian setting with highly developed technology, ecology and society, based on the author's ideals. [118] His early published stories usually featured the extrapolation of a technological innovation or scientific breakthrough into the underlying decadence of his own society.

A recurring theme in Clarke's works is the notion that the evolution of an intelligent species would eventually make them something close to gods. This was explored in his 1953 novel Childhood's End and briefly touched upon in his novel Imperial Earth . This idea of transcendence through evolution seems to have been influenced by Olaf Stapledon, who wrote a number of books dealing with this theme. Clarke has said of Stapledon's 1930 book Last and First Men that "No other book had a greater influence on my life ... [It] and its successor Star Maker (1937) are the twin summits of [Stapledon's] literary career". [119]

Awards, honours and other recognition

Clarke won the 1963 Stuart Ballantine Medal from the Franklin Institute for the concept of satellite communications, [120] [121] and other honours. [122] He won more than a dozen annual literary awards for particular works of science fiction. [37]

Named after Clarke


In 1986, Clarke provided a grant to fund the prize money (initially £1,000) for the Arthur C. Clarke Award for the best science fiction novel published in the United Kingdom in the previous year. In 2001 the prize was increased to £2001, and its value now matches the year (e.g., £2005 in 2005).

In 2005 he lent his name to the inaugural Sir Arthur Clarke Awards—dubbed the "Space Oscars". His brother attended the awards ceremony, and presented an award specially chosen by Arthur (and not by the panel of judges who chose the other awards) to the British Interplanetary Society.


Selected works


Short story collections



See also


  1. Full dedication reads: "To the still unfading memory of LESLIE EKANAYAKE (13 JuIy 1947 – 4 July 1977) only perfect friend of a lifetime, in whom were uniquely combined Loyalty, Intelligence and Compassion. When your radiant and loving spirit vanished from this world, the light went out of many lives."
  2. Letters Patent were issued by Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom on 16 March 2000 to authorise this.
  3. ISFDB catalogues one "Letter" to Amazing Stories published in 1935, ten more nonfiction items ("Essays") published 1938 to 1945, and five "Shortfiction" published 1937 to 1942. [2]
  4. Full text: "Providing for Long Distance Communications and Safety". Archived from the original on 14 January 2009. Retrieved 23 December 2008.
  5. Full text: "Observing and Researching the Earth's Surface". Archived from the original on 14 January 2009. Retrieved 23 December 2008.
  6. "INTELSAT, the International Telecommunications Satellite Organisation which operates the global system, has started calling it the Clarke orbit. Flattered though I am, honesty compels me to point out that the concept of such an orbit predates my 1945 paper 'Extra Terrestrial Relays' by at least twenty years. I didn't invent it, but only annexed it." [88] :205

Related Research Articles

"The Sentinel" is a science fiction short story by British author Arthur C. Clarke, written in 1948 and first published in 1951 as "Sentinel of Eternity", which was used as a starting point for the novel and film 2001: A Space Odyssey.

<i>The Fountains of Paradise</i> novel by Arthur C. Clarke

The Fountains of Paradise is a novel by British writer Arthur C. Clarke. Set in the 22nd century, it describes the construction of a space elevator. This "orbital tower" is a giant structure rising from the ground and linking with a satellite in geostationary orbit at the height of approximately 36,000 kilometers. Such a structure would be used to raise payloads to orbit without the expense of using rockets. The novel won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best Novel.

<i>Childhoods End</i> novel by Arthur C. Clarke

Childhood's End is a 1953 science fiction novel by the British author Arthur C. Clarke. The story follows the peaceful alien invasion of Earth by the mysterious Overlords, whose arrival begins decades of apparent utopia under indirect alien rule, at the cost of human identity and culture.

Charles Stross British science fiction writer and blogger

Charles David George "Charlie" Stross is a British writer of science fiction, Lovecraftian horror, and fantasy. Stross specialises in hard science fiction and space opera. Between 1994 and 2004, he was also an active writer for the magazine Computer Shopper and was responsible for the monthly Linux column. He stopped writing for the magazine to devote more time to novels. However, he continues to publish freelance articles on the Internet.

The Space Odyssey series is a series of science fiction novels by the writer Arthur C. Clarke. Two of the novels have been made into feature films, released in 1968 and 1984 respectively. Two of Clarke's early short stories may also be considered part of the series.

<i>2010: The Year We Make Contact</i> 1984 science fiction movie directed by Peter Hyams

2010: The Year We Make Contact is a 1984 science fiction film written, produced and directed by Peter Hyams. It is a sequel to Stanley Kubrick's film 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), and is based on Arthur C. Clarke's sequel novel 2010: Odyssey Two (1982).

<i>2001: A Space Odyssey</i> (novel) 1968 science fiction novel

2001: A Space Odyssey is a 1968 science fiction novel by British writer Arthur C. Clarke. It was developed concurrently with Stanley Kubrick's film version and published after the release of the film. Clarke and Kubrick worked on the book together, but eventually only Clarke ended up as the official author. The story is based in part on various short stories by Clarke, including "The Sentinel". By 1992, the novel had sold three million copies worldwide. An elaboration of Clarke and Kubrick's collaborative work on this project was made in The Lost Worlds of 2001.

<i>2001: A Space Odyssey</i> (comics) oversized comic book adaptation of the 1968 film of the same name as well as a monthly series

2001: A Space Odyssey is an oversized American comic book adaptation of the 1968 film of the same name as well as a ten–issue monthly series which expanded upon the concepts presented in the Stanley Kubrick film and the novel by Arthur C. Clarke. Jack Kirby wrote and pencilled both the adaptation and the series, which were published by Marvel Comics beginning in 1976. The adaptation was part of the agreement of Kirby's return to Marvel.

The Sir Arthur Clarke Award is a British award given annually since 2005 in recognition of notable contributions to space exploration, particularly British achievements. Nominations for the awards are made by members of the public, with shortlists drawn up by a panel of judges, who also choose the winner. Sir Arthur Clarke chose a special award independently of the public nominations, prior to his death on 18 March 2008.

<i>The Last Theorem</i> Novel by Arthur C. Clarke and Frederik Pohl

The Last Theorem is a 2008 science fiction novel by Arthur C. Clarke and Frederik Pohl. It was first published in the United Kingdom by HarperVoyager in July 2008, and in the United States by Del Rey Books in August 2008. The book is about a young Sri Lankan mathematician who finds a short proof of Fermat's Last Theorem, while an alien invasion of Earth is in progress.

2001 is a year.

Jupiter Five short story by Arthur C. Clarke

"Jupiter Five" is a science fiction short story by British writer Arthur C. Clarke, first published in the magazine If in 1953. It appeared again in Clarke's collection of short stories Reach for Tomorrow, in 1956, and deals with the detection and exploration of an old spaceship from outside the Solar System.

Since its premiere in 1968, the film 2001: A Space Odyssey has been analysed and interpreted by numerous people, ranging from professional movie critics to amateur writers and science fiction fans. The director of the film, Stanley Kubrick, and the writer, Arthur C. Clarke, wanted to leave the film open to philosophical and allegorical interpretation, purposely presenting the final sequences of the film without the underlying thread being apparent; a concept illustrated by the final shot of the film, which contains the image of the embryonic "Starchild". Nonetheless, in July 2018, Kubrick's interpretation of the ending scene was presented after being newly found in an early interview.

The following is a list of works by Arthur C. Clarke.

Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Modern Technologies organization

Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Modern Technologies (ACCIMT) is an institute for research and technology transfer in Sri Lanka. It is named after its founder patron, Sir Arthur C. Clarke, the famous British science fiction author, inventor and futurist. The institute is mainly focused on conducting research in the fields of electronics, micro-electronics, telecommunications, information technology, space technologies and robotics, and provision of training for relevant industry professionals. It is one of the few institutions of this kind in Sri Lanka.

(Note: in media, in this article, does not include his published writings.)

In popular culture, Stanley Kubrick's 1968 science fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey has had a significant impact in such diverse cultural forms and media as film, literature, music and technology.


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