Sir Arthur Charles Clarke, CBE, FRAS) (Sri Lankabhimanya Arthur Charles Clarke) (16 December 1917 – 19 March 2008) was a British science fiction writer, science writer, undersea explorer, television series host, and inventor.
Born at Minehead in Somerset, England, he grew up in nearby Bishops Lydeard. In 1936 he moved to London where he worked at a job in the Civil Service. During World War II he served in the Royal Air Force as a radar instructor and technician from 1941 to 1946. At the end of the war he began a two-year degree course in physics and mathematics at Kings College, London, which he obtained with honors. After this he worked as Assistant Editor at Physics Abstracts. At this point his writing career started to develop. In 1956, Clarke emigrated to Ceylon (Sri Lanka), where he lived the rest of his life.
He is perhaps most famous for being co-writer of the screenplay for the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, generally considered one of the most influential films of all time. His other science fiction writings earned him a number of Hugo and Nebula awards, along with a large readership, making him into one of the towering figures of the field. For many years he, along with Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov, were known as the "Big Three" of science fiction.
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 – an idea that, in 1963, won him the Franklin Institute’s Stuart Ballantine Medal. Later he was the chairman of the British Interplanetary Society from 1947 to 1950 and again in 1953.
Clarke was also a science writer, who was both an avid popularizer of space travel and a futurist of uncanny ability, who won a Kalinga Prize (award given by Unesco for popularizing science) in 1961. These all together eventually earned him the moniker "prophet of the space age".
Clarke emigrated to Sri Lanka, largely to pursue his interest in scuba diving. That year he discovered the underwater ruins of the ancient Koneswaram temple in Trincomalee. He lived in Sri Lanka until his death. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1998 and was awarded Sri Lanka’s highest civil honour, Sri Lankabhimanya, in 2005.
Later on he was host and commentator in the British television series Mysterious World.
Clarke was born in Minehead, Somerset, England. As a boy, he grew up on a farm enjoying stargazing and reading old American science fiction pulp magazines. After secondary education at Huish Grammar School in Taunton, he joined the Board of Education as a pensions auditor.
During World War II 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. 9 Radio School, RAF Yatesbury in Wiltshire. He was commissioned as a Pilot Officer (Technical Branch) on 27 May 1943. He was promoted Flying Officer on 27 November 1943. He was appointed chief training instructor at RAF Honiley in Warwickshire and was demobilised with the rank of flight lieutenant. During this time Clarke also became a member of the British Interplanetary Society.
After the war he earned a first-class degree in mathematics and physics at King’s College London. Clarke then served as Chairman of the British Interplanetary Society from 1946 to 1947 and again from 1951 to 1953.
Although he was not the originator of the concept of geostationary satellites, one of his most important contributions 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 BIS in 1945. The concept was published in Wireless World in October of that year. 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 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 a Clarke Orbit.
On a trip to Florida in 1953 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. "The marriage was incompatible from the beginning", says Clarke. Clarke never remarried, but was close to a Sri Lankan man, Leslie Ekanayake, whom the author called his "only perfect friend of a lifetime" in his dedication to The Fountains of Paradise. Clarke is buried with Ekanayake, who predeceased him by three decades, in the Colombo central cemetery. 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. Journalists who enquired of Clarke whether he was gay were told, "No, merely mildly cheerful."
Clarke lived in Sri Lanka from 1956 until his death in 2008, having emigrated there when it was still called Ceylon, first in Unawatuna on the south coast, and then in Colombo. The Sri Lankan government offered Clarke resident guest status in 1975.
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 and spawned sequels that, with the 2001 series, formed the backbone of his later career.
In a 1974 taped 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 around 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, Clark responded: "He will have, in his own house, not a computer as big as this, but at least, a console through which he can talk, through his 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."
In the 1980s Clarke became well known 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. In 1986 he was named a Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America. 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. Clarke was for many years a Vice Patron of the British Polio Fellowship.
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". The same year he became the first Chancellor of the International Space University, serving from 1989 to 2004 and 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 preservation of gorillas and became a patron of the Gorilla Organization which fights for the preservation of gorillas. When tantalum mining for cell phone manufacture threatened the gorillas in 2001, he lent his voice to their cause.
Although he and his home were unharmed by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake tsunami, his "Arthur C. Clarke Diving School" at Hikkaduwa was destroyed. He made humanitarian appeals, and the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation worked towards a better disaster notification systems. The school has since been rebuilt.
In September 2007, he provided a video greeting for NASA’s Cassini probe’s flyby of Iapetus (which plays an important role in 2001: A Space Odyssey). In December 2007 on his 90th birthday, Clarke recorded a video message to his friends and fans bidding them good-bye.
Clarke died in Sri Lanka on 19 March 2008 after suffering from respiratory failure, according to Rohan de Silva, one of his aides. His aide described the cause as respiratory complications and heart failure stemming from post-polio syndrome.
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. The book was published after Clarke’s death. Clarke was buried 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.
Space Odyssey series
Arthur C. Clarke – 2001: A Space Odyssey (read by D*ick Hill)
Arthur C. Clarke – 2010: Odyssey Two (read by John Stratton)
Arthur C. Clarke – 2061: Odyssey Three (read by Scott Brick)
Arthur C. Clarke – 3001: The Final Odyssey (read by Garrick Hagon)
Rama series / with Gentry Lee
Arthur C. Clarke – Rendezvous With Rama (read by Peter Ganim)
Arthur C. Clarke – Rama II (read by John Stratton)
Arthur C. Clarke – The Garden Of Rama (read by John Stratton)
Arthur C. Clarke – Rama Revealed (read by John Stratton)
A Time Odyssey series / with Stephen Baxter
Arthur C. Clarke – Time’s Eye (read by John Stratton)
Arthur C. Clarke – Sunstorm (read by John Lee)
Arthur C. Clarke – Firstborn (John Lee)
Arthur C. Clarke – Astounding Days A Science Fictional Autobiogrpaphy (read by Butch Hoover)
Arthur C. Clarke – Childhood’s End (read by Eric Michael Summerer)
Arthur C. Clarke – The City And The Stars And The Sands Of Mars (read by Vanessa Maroney)
Arthur C. Clarke – The Deep Range (read by Mike Grady)
Arthur C. Clarke – A Fall Of Moondust (read by Robert Donnely)
Arthur C. Clarke – Dolphin Island (read by Randy Davidson)
Arthur C. Clarke – Imperial Earth (read by Roger Graham)
Arthur C. Clarke – The Fountains Of Paradise (read by Marc Vietor)
Arthur C. Clarke – Cradle (read by Gary Tipton)
Arthur C. Clarke – The Ghost From The Grand Banks (read by Barry Bernson)
Arthur C. Clarke – The Hammer Of God (read by George Guidall)
Arthur C. Clarke – The Last Theorem (read by Mark Bramhall)
Arthur C. Clarke – The Light Of Other Days (read by D*ick Hill)
Arthur C. Clarke – Richter 10 (read by David Elias)
Arthur C. Clarke – Tales From The White Hart (read by Various)
Arthur C. Clarke – The Other Side Of The Sky (read by Jonathan Farwell)
Arthur C. Clarke – Tales From Ten Worlds (read by Bill Wanson)
Arthur C. Clarke – The Winds From The Sun (read by David Hartley-Margolin)
Arthur C. Clarke – The Lion Of Comarre And Other Stories: The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke, 1937-1949 (read by Various)
Arthur C. Clarke – Earthlight And Other Stories: The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke 1950-1951 (read by Various)
Arthur C. Clarke – The Nine Billion Names of God And Other Stories: The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke, 1951-1956 (read by Various)
Arthur C. Clarke – The Songs Of Distant Earth And Other Stories: The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke, 1956-1961 (read by Various)
Arthur C. Clarke – The Shining Ones And Other Stories: The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke, 1961-1999 (read by Various)
Arthur C. Clarke – Across The Sea Of Stars (read by Dan Lazar)
Arthur C. Clarke – The Collected Stories Volume 1 (read by Ben Onwukwe, Mike Grady, Nick Boulton, Roger May and Sean Barrett)
Arthur C. Clarke – The Collected Stories Volume 2 (read by Ben Onwukwe, Mike Grady, Nick Boulton, Roger May and Sean Barrett)
Arthur C. Clarke – The Collected Stories Volume 3 (read by Ben Onwukwe, Mike Grady, Nick Boulton, Roger May and Sean Barrett)
Arthur C. Clarke – The Collected Stories Volume 4 (read by Mike Grady, Nick Boulton, Roger May and Sean Barrett)
Arthur C. Clarke – The Collected Stories Volume 5 (read by Ben Onwukwe, Buffy Davis, Mike Grady, Nick Boulton, Roger May and Sean Barrett)
Space Odyssey series
A Time Odyssey series