3 min read

Science Fiction Legend Arthur C. Clarke, 90, Dies

Clarke died at a hospital near his home in Sri Lanka early Wednesday. His science fiction married Western scientific tradition with Eastern mysticism.
Arthur C. Clarke, the science-fiction writer who co-authored the screenplay and book 2001: A Space Odyssey and who came up with the idea for the communications satellite in the 1940s, died at a hospital near his home in Sri Lanka early Wednesday. He was 90.

"He had been taken to hospital in what we had hoped was one of the slings and arrows of being 90, but in this case it was his final visit," said Scott Chase, secretary of the nonprofit Arthur C. Clarke foundation, in a statement on the author's Web site.

Clarke's science-fiction married the Western scientific tradition with Eastern mysticism. His stories and novels frequently revolved around how advancing technology pushes the human race to the next stage of human evolution, often overseen by kindly, godlike aliens.

He coined Clarke's Law: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

Clarke's 1951 short story "The Sentinel," about the discovery of an ancient, alien artifact on the moon, was loosely adapted into the movie and novel 2001 more than a decade later. He wrote three sequel novels.

Other famous Clarke novels include Childhood's End (1953), a story about alien invaders of Earth who serve as benevolent overlords of the human race, and Rendezvous With Rama, in which a research team is sent to investigate a giant, cylindrical spaceship hurtling through the solar system, which, like 2001, spawned sequels.

In his short-story "The Star," a group of astronauts visits a planet revolving around the star that was the Star of Bethlehem, and a minister in the group is shaken by what he finds there. And in "The Nine Billion Names Of God," a group of monks buys a mainframe computer to transcribe God's 9 billion names.

Clarke was born in the coastal town of Minehead, England, the eldest of four children, according to the biography on his Web site. His father died when he was 14 and his mother gave riding lessons to support the family.

Clarke served from 1941 to 1946 in the Royal Air Force, specializing in radar, and sold his first science-fiction stories then, and developed the idea for communications satellites in a 1945 technical paper.

After the war he entered King's College in London and took his B.Sc. with honors in physics and mathematics in 1948. He wrote his first published novel, Prelude To Space, during three weeks in the summer of 1947. He was a full-time writer since 1952, and moved to Sri Lanka in the 1950s following his interest in undersea exploration.

In 1962, Clarke became completely paralyzed after an accidental blow to the head, but he recovered.

He started using a word processor to write in 1982.

Photo courtesy of The Arthur C. Clarke Foundation