Clarke, Arthur C(harles) (1917–2008)

Arthur C. Clarke

Arthur C. Clarke was a British author (resident in Sri Lanka since 1956) of science fiction and popular science who worked on the development of radar during World War II, originated the concept of communications satellites in the October 1945 issue of Wireless World,1 and earned a first-class degree in physics and mathematics from Kings College, London (1948). His nonfiction books of the early 1950s, including The Exploration of Space (1951),2 brought him fame as an enthusiastic advocate of space travel, although he had begun writing science fiction two decades earlier, influenced most significantly by Olaf Stapledon's Last and First Men.


Informed by his science and engineering background and suffused with his liberal optimism about man's destiny among the stars, Clarke's writings combine meticulous technical authenticity with an almost mystical vision of the future. The notion that mankind's further evolution is inextricably bound up with extraterrestrial contact is recurrent throughout his work. In Childhood's End3 (1953), The City and the Stars4 (1956), and 2001: A Space Odyssey5 (1977) and its sequels, Clarke employs highly advanced aliens as agents of human transformation, while in Rendezvous With Rama6 (1973) and its sequels, he explores the idea of first contact with an outside intelligence in the form of a robotic alien ship which temporarily enters orbit around the Sun (see Bracewell probe).


Several prognostications made by Clarke in his novels have subsequently been borne out in fact, including the possibility of life on Europa and the existence of a moon around Pluto. Among his scientific contemporaries who used fiction to speculate about the nature of alien life and intelligence, and the consequences of human-alien contact were Hal Clement, in the United States, and Fred Hoyle, in Britain.



1. Clarke, Arthur C. "The Future of World Communications." Wireless World, October 1945.
2. Clarke, Arthur C. The Exploration of Space. New York: Harper, 1952.
3. Clarke, Arthur C. Childhood's End, New York: Harcourt, Brace and World (1963) (First published in 1953).
4. Clarke, Arthur C. The City and the Stars, New York: Harcourt, Brace (1956).
5. Clarke, Arthur C. 2001: A Space Odyssey, New York: New American Library (1968).
6. Clarke, Arthur C. Rendezvous with Rama, New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich (1973).