March 18, 2008

RIP: Arthur C. Clarke


COLOMBO, March 19 (Reuters) - Pioneering science fiction writer and visionary Sir Arthur C. Clarke, best known for his novel, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and his towering influence on the genre, has died in Sri Lanka at 90 years of age.

"He has passed away. He had a cardio-respiratory attack," said Rohan de Silva, his personal secretary.

British-born Clarke wrote more than 80 books and hundreds of short stories and articles during a career that spanned some seven decades.

In the 1940s Clarke predicted that man would reach the moon by the year 2000, an idea that experts dismissed as nonsense.

When Neil Armstrong landed in 1969, the United States said Clarke "provided the essential intellectual drive that led us to the moon."

On his 90th birthday in December 2007, the wheelchair-bound Clarke recorded a farewell message to his friends, saying in part that he would have liked to see evidence of extraterrestrial life during his lifetime.

Clarke was born into an English farming family in Somerset, England on Dec 16, 1917. In the 1930s he pursued an interest in space sciences by joining the British Interplanetary Society (BIS) and began to write science fiction. In World War Two, Clarke served in the Royal Air Force and worked with experimental radar systems. The experience would later inspire his only non-science fiction novel, Glide Path.

In 1945, Clarke published a landmark technical paper setting out the principles of communication using satellites in geostationary orbits -- a speculative technology realized 25 years later. His work won him several awards and today, the geostationary orbit at 36,000 km (22,370 miles) above the equator is named The Clarke Orbit by the International Astronomical Union.

After the war he became the president of the BIS from 1947-50 and again in 1953.

Clarke first visited Sri Lanka, then called Ceylon, in December 1954 and moved to the country soon after. He spent most of the rest of his life there.

Wikipedia has a great list of the works of the now late Arthur Charles Clark.