Like Asimov, Clarke was a true master of hard science fiction. He received degrees in both mathematics and physics from King’s College in London. His first professional sale was in 1946 in Astounding Science Fiction magazine. Clarke’s first great work was 1953’s “Childhood’s End” but he took the Sci-Fi world by storm with 1968’s “2001: A Space Odyssey”. Spanning eons, the film was built on themes of human evolution, space travel, and the perils of artificial intelligence. 1972’s “Rendezvous with Rama” was the only science fiction novel I was ever assigned to read in my High School AP English class. It is the story of massive alien spaceship that enter Earth’s solar system and the eventual exploration of the ship. The book won both the Hugo and Nebula awards for best novel as did 1979’s “The Fountains of Paradise”.
Clarke would go on to write three sequels to Odyssey and three sequels to Rama. It’s difficult to assign just how much influence Clarke had.
Science fiction icon Arthur C. Clarke was one of the world's best-selling authors of science fiction and was widely considered one of the masters of the genre. Deemed on par with authors like Isaac Asimov and Robert A. Heinlein, he was especially identified with his novels Childhood's End, Rendezvous with Rama, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Clarke's fiction is credited with combining flawlessly accurate technical details with such philosophically expansive themes as "spiritual" rebirth and the search for man's place in the universe. The recipient of at least three Hugo Awards and two Nebulas, as well as a host of other acknowledgements, he was also well recognized as an inventor, an editor, and a science commentator.
Arthur Charles Clarke was born 16 December 1917 in the English coastal town of Minehead, in Somerset. The eldest of four children, he enjoyed stargazing as a child and had a great enthusiasm for sci-fi pulp magazines like Astounding Stories. When Clarke was 14 his father died and the family's savings declined. His mother offered riding lessons to offset their money troubles, but she was unable to provide enough money for her son to attend university. Clarke was forced to look for work, at last taking a position as an auditor, but continued to pursue his earlier scientific interests. His apartment eventually became headquarters to the British Interplanetary Society, with Clarke becoming its chairman in 1949. Even as he served as a radar specialist in the RAF during World War II, he was simultaneously writing and submitting science fiction stories and technical papers. His first piece of fiction to see publication was "Rescue Party", in Astounding Science, May 1946.
Of his various technical and scientific papers, one of them, "Can Rocket Stations Give Worldwide Radio Coverage?" (Wireless World, 1945) introduced the concept that geostationary satellites could make excellent telecommunications relays. So influential was this work that Clarke is credited as the inventor of the first communications satellite, a scientific development which earned him the gold medal of the Franklin Institute, the Lindbergh Award, the Marconi Award, the Vikram Sarabhai Professorship of the Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad, and the Fellowship of King's College, London. In addition, the geostationary orbit (at 42,000 kilometers above Earth) is named "The Clarke Orbit". In 1954, almost ten years after this development, Clarke's correspondence with Dr. Harry Wexler (then chief of the Scientific Services Division, US Weather Bureau) led to a new branch of meteorology that utilized rockets and satellites for weather forecasting.
After the war, Clarke finally had enough funds to enter King's College to continue his formal stuidies. During three weeks of summer holiday in 1947, he wrote his first novel, Prelude to Space. In 1948, after graduating with honors in physics and mathematics, he took the position of Assistant Editor for Science Abstracts (1949-51). But Clarke's interest in writing his own fiction and non-fiction continued undiminished, and after a few years he was able to devote himself full time to writing.
In the 1950s Clarke developed an interest in undersea exploration. He visited Sri Lanka, learned how to dive, and wrote several books and articles on the Indian Ocean. Clarke also worked with friend Mike Wilson in filming the Great Barrier Reef, an experience which inspired his novel The Deep Range. In 1956 Clarke moved permanently to Sri Lanka, a change of locale that would show its subtle influence in such works as The Fountains of Paradise (which also introduced his "space elevator" concept) and the Rama series. (It is worth noting that Clarke, and his staff, survived unscathed during the devastating 2004 tsunami that walloped coastal Sri Lanka and various other areas around the Indian Ocean. Clarke did lose a considerable amount of diving-related equipment which was washed out to sea.)
In 1962, Clarke's undersea explorations were put on hold for a time, after an accidental blow to the head left him temporarily paralyzed. Then, in 1964, he began an entirely new project: collaborating with Stanley Kubrick on the development of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Although loosely based on Clarke's short story "The Sentinel" (1951), the project required Clarke to generate an entire novel, all while Kubrick was simultaneously working on the film (which proved to be an odd but productive interchange). In 1968 the novel was published, and in that same year Clarke and Kubrick shared an Oscar nomination for the film. In 1985, Clarke published 2010: Odyssey Two and worked with Peter Hyams on a film version. Other novels in the series have included 2061: Odyssey Three (1988) and 3001: The Final Odyssey (1996).
In 1969, already regarded as one of the chief prophets of the space age, Clarke joined CBS newsman Walter Cronkite and astronaut Wally Schirra in narrating the landmark Apollo 11 lunar landing. Clarke returned for coverage of Apollo missions 12 and 15. Later, he served as first Chancellor of the International Space University formed by Peter Diamandis, presiding from 1989 to 2004.
But while Clarke is extremely well known for his interest in space, he has also held a lifelong fascination with the paranormal (reflected in his novel Childhood's End). He has published a number of works on the topic (some in conjunction with professional skeptic James Randi), and he has produced such related television programs as Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World (1981) and Arthur C. Clarke's World of Strange Powers (1984). Clarke admits to having once been duped by Uri Geller during a demonstration at Birkbeck College. But in the spirit of true scientific objectivity he advocates continued research into alleged instances of telekinesis and other paranormal phenomena.
In 1988 Clarke sufferred a return to mobility problems and he was diagnosed with post-polio syndrome (an affliction shared by author Robert Anton Wilson). The condition eventually confined him to a wheelchair. Ten years later, in 1998, Clarke's was about to be invested with knighhood when another setback struck: the British tabloid The Sunday Mirror accused Clarke of being a pedophile. Although the allegations were ultimately discredited, the scandal delayed his investiture some two years. Due to his wheelchair and health limitations, Sir Arthur's ceremony was performed in his adopted home of Sri Lanka by the UK High Commissioner.
In the new millenium, Arthur C. Clarke continued to publish substantial new work. In addition to his fiction and his science works, he has also published two autobiographies: Ascent to Orbit and Astounding Days. His correspondence with various figures (director Peter Hyams, author C. S. Lewis, etc.) have been published in various volumes, and many of his essays can be found in Greetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds!. Neil McAleer's Arthur C. Clarke: The Authorized Biography was published in 1992.
In addition to writing, Clarke served as the Honorary Board Chair of the Institute for Cooperation in Space (founded by Dr. Carol Rosin), and his legacy is being defined and preserved under the auspices of the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation. Among his many distinctions, and in addition to the Clarke Orbit, Sir Arthur could also boast both an asteroid (4923 Clarke) as well as a species of Ceratopsian dinosaur, Serendipaceratops arthurcclarkei, named in his honor. In 1986 the Arthur C. Clarke Award was established to encourage excellence in British science fiction.
Clarke died 19 March 2008 of heart failure at his home in Sri Lanka.