Author: Ziadh Muhammed
Date: May 2008
'Here lies Arthur Clarke. He never grew up, but didn't stop growing' these are the words he wanted to have engraved on his tombstone. The beautiful island Sri Lanka observed silence for a minute at mid afternoon on March 22, 2008 as the man rested in his grave. The world bid farewell to the 90 year old futuristic scientific fiction writer Sir Arthur C. Clarke who passed away on 19th of March, 2008 in his adopted home Sri Lanka due to the respiratory complication and heart failure.
Clarke was born at the coastal town of Minehead, Somerset, England on 16th of December 1917 as the eldest of four children. He was very curious about science from his early ages and was able to construct his first telescope at a young age of thirteen. While at school, Arthur enjoyed fiction stories from old American science fiction pulp magazines. He also enjoyed stargazing with the help of his home made telescope. He could not afford university education after his secondary education at Huish's Grammar School, Taunton.
After he left the school, he joint as an auditor in the Exchequer and Adult Department in London. During the World War II, Arthur worked in the Royal Air Force as a radar specialist and involved in early warning radar defense system. This radar technology was the key to win the Battle of Britain. He worked on Ground Controlled Approach (GCA) radar and it helped a lot in Berlin Airlift of 1948-1949. He was promoted to Corporal, Pilot officer and to the Flying officer position. Clarke was finally released from the military with the rank of Flight Lieutenant.
After the war, he enrolled at King's College London and earned degree in mathematics and physics with a first class. He was elected Chairman of the British Interplanetary Society from 1947-1950 and he was again reelected in 1953. Arthur wrote a technical paper which proposed geostationary satellites as ideal telecommunication relays. This paper was circulated among the core technical members of British Interplanetary Society in 1945 and it was published in wireless world. Then the paper was reprinted Ascent to Orbit which is a collection of Arthur's technical writing.
Life as a writer
"I have had a diverse career as a writer, underwater explorer and space promoter. Of all these, I would like to be remembered as a writer," he recently commented when asked how he would like to be remembered. He has written many science fiction and non fiction stories as well. Clarke had published some stories in fanzine (what is this?) till his first professional sales published in Astounding Science Fiction. "Rescue Party" was his first sale, although "Loophole" was published before this. Meanwhile, he briefly served as an Assistant Editor of Science Abstracts' and transformed as the full time writer from 1951 onwards. He contributed to Eagle publications' Dane Dare comic series. He wrote the famous novel 2001: A Space Odyssey' in 1968 which was filmed by director Stanley Kubrick. Clarke wrote 41 fiction and 45 non-fiction books. Apart from these, he has written a number of stories and essays. His last science fiction novel The Last Theorem' will be published in August.
Clarke left the Britain in 1956 and settled Sri Lanka because of his devoted interest in scuba diving. He first visited Sri Lanka in 1954 to study about the Great Barrier Reef. Later, he established a diving school at Hikkaduwa which is a famous beach site in Sri Lanka. He also became a member of Underwater Explorers Club. But he had to say farewell to the sea after an accidental blow on the head which made him completely paralyzed. After that, he was physically confined to wheel chair, though his mind traveled a lot in the space.
Awards and Honors
Arthur C. Clarke received many awards and honors from reputed organizations and institutes. Among them, the notable honor is the grant provided to form Arthur C. Clarke award which is awarded for the best science fiction novel published in Britain. He was knighted in 2000 by the Queen of England and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994. Further, he was awarded Telluride Tech Award of Technology. Sri Lanka honored him with the highest civilian award the Sri Lankabhimanya (The pride of Sri Lanka) in 2005 for his outstanding contributions to science and technology and the commitment to the country. He also served as the honorary board chair of the Institute for Cooperation in Space and in the board of governors of the National Space Society. 4923Clarke, an asteroid, was named after him in his honor. Serendipaceratops arthurcclarkei, a species of dinosaur, was discovered in Australia. His secondary school also honored him by naming its learning resource centre after him.
His future predictions
His future predictions are really interesting to read. "Check me for accuracy - on December 31, 2100" he requested the readers in his article beyond 2001'which consists of series of predictions until 2100. Though his predictions were not realized, they are not mere predictions. "No one can see into the future. What I try to do is outline possible "futures"" Arthur said.
He predicted that the last coal mine would be closed in 2006 and the existing currencies would be abolished and replaced by Mega-Watt-Hour' as the universal exchange unit in 2016. He hoped to celebrate his 100th birthday in Hilton Orbiter, a space hotel which would be built in 2014 as he predicted, as one of the first guests to the hotel. Sir Arthur foretold that there would be two intelligent species on Earth in 2020; human being and Artificial Intelligent. Finally the history would begin again in 2100 as he calculated. The full article is available in http://www.arthurcclarke.net/?scifi=3
Final Space Odyssey
"It's very fair to say that his writings played a significant part of the inspiration that caused me to pursue a career in space and to find out "what's out there"" Dr. Alan Hale, the co-discoverer of Comet Hale-Bopp, said in the message of condolence. Arthur has inspired millions of people towards space science. He believed in three phases to a great idea. "The first phase is when people tell you it's a crazy idea, it will never work; the second phase is when people say, it might work, but it's not worth doing; and the third phase is when people say, I told you that was a great idea all along!". The space giant started his final space odyssey on 19th march, 2008 and we do not know where his journey is and what he is exploring. May be, if we are lucky enough, we could meet him at Hilton Orbiter at his 100th birthday!
"One day, some super civilization may encounter this relic from the vanished species and I may exist in another time; Move over, Stephen King." Sir Arthur C. Clarke
1.Al-Jazeera News report on the death of Sir Arthur C. Clarke, URL: http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/A2827CF5-BB28-4FF1-BE69-75A67ACFD1AA.htm?FRAMELESS=true&NRNODEGUID=%7bA2827CF5-BB28-4FF1-BE69-75A67ACFD1AA%7d, accessed on 10th of April, 2008
2.Official website of Sir Arthur C. Clarke, URL: www.arthurcclarke.net, accessed on 1st of April, 2008
3.Official website of The Arthur C. Clarke Foundation, http://www.clarkefoundation.org/, accessed on 1st of April, 2008
Written by Muhammed Ziadh