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Arthur C. Clarke Dead at Age 90


Arthur C. Clarke Dead at Age 90

Legendary science fiction author and scientist Sir Arthur C. Clarke died March 19th (Sri Lanka time), at the age of 90 in Sri Lanka of a cardio-respiratory attack after several years of poor health. He was the author of more than 100 fiction and non-fiction books and numerous short stories and scientific papers and essays.

Clarke was the son of a British farmer who died when Clarke was 14. Clarke worked in the British civil service as an auditor and then served in the Royal Air Force during World War II in the development of radar. After the war, he achieved a first class degree in maths and physics from King’s College, London.

Clarke was among the first scientists to propose that the new idea of geo-stationary satellites could be used for communications around the globe. His writings on developing this technology were so influential that the International Astronomical Union named the geo-stationary orbit 42,000 kilometers above the Earth the Clarke Orbit. Clarke was also influential in advancements in weather forecasting using rockets and satellites, predicted humans would reach the moon before the year 2000, and presented and developed the idea of the space elevator in both his fiction and non-fiction. He was a member and chairman of the British Interplanetary Society and a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Clarke wrote many non-fiction books, including the well-known works  The Exploration of Space and The Promise of Space. His first fiction publication was the story “Rescue Party” in Astounding Science in 1946. Clarke also published several children’s books and contributed to the Dan Dare comics series for Eagle Comics.

His many acclaimed SF novels include Childhood’s End, The City and the Stars, Rendezvous with Rama, The Fountains of Paradise, The Songs of Distant Earth, and The Hammer of God. More recently, Clarke wrote a series of novels with author Stephen Baxter, the first being The Light of Other Days. Clarke’s last novel, due out in November 2008, was appropriately titled The Last Theorem, written with author Frederick Pohl. Rendezvous with Rama won the Nebula Award, the Hugo Award, and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. The Fountains of Paradise won both the Hugo and the Nebula. A novella, “A Meeting with Medusa” also won the Nebula and a short story, “The Star,” won him another Hugo.

In the 1960’s, a story that Clarke wrote for a BBC competition, “The Sentinel,” served as the inspiration for a collaboration between Clarke and film director Stanley Kubrick. Clarke used the story as a jumping off point for writing a novel and co-writing with Kubrick the screenplay for what would become the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey. The film was a major hit, a revolutionary film for special effects, and won Clarke and Kubrick an Oscar nomination. The novel of the same title was a best-seller and Clarke wrote several sequels, including 2010, which was made into a film directed by Peter Hyams in 1982.

In 1956, after a brief marriage ended in divorce, Clarke moved to Sri Lanka and became an avid scuba diver, his adopted country serving as the inspiration for several of his novels. From 1979-2002, he was Chancellor of Moratuwa University in Sri Lanka. He also served as Chancellor of the International Space University from 1989-2004. Clarke appeared frequently on television as a commentator on science and technology and in the 1980’s, had two television shows – Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World and Arthur C. Clarke’s World of Strange Powers. He also participated in Walter Cronkite’s Universe series.

After many years of health problems, Clarke was diagnosed with post-polio syndrome in 1988 and was largely confined to a wheelchair from 1995 until his death. In 1986, the Science Fiction Writers of America made him a Grand Master. In 1989, he became a Commander of the Order of the British Empire. In 2000, he became a Knight Bachelor. In 1986, Clarke provided a grant to fund the Arthur C. Clarke Award for best science fiction novel published in Britain in each previous year. In 2005, he lent his name to the Sir Arthur Clarke Awards for achievements in space exploration by British scientists. Numerous institutions are named after him, including a diving school in Sri Lanka that he founded. An asteroid was officially named after him and a species of ceratopsian dinosaur, Serendipaceratops arthurcclarkei. Several space craft have been named the Odyssey, in honor of the ship in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

A movie adaptation of Clarke’s novel Rendezvous with Rama is currently in the works, produced by actor Morgan Freeman and directed by David Fincher, with a tentative release date for sometime in 2009. 


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