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Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov (January 2, 1920 - April 6, 1992) was a Russian-born American author and biochemist, a highly successful and extraordinarily prolific writer best known for his works of science fiction and for his science books for the layperson. He also wrote mysteries, many of which were collected in the Black Widowers books. He published about 500 volumes. He was a long-time member of Mensa.

Asimov was born in Petrovichi[?], Russia, but his family emigrated to the United States when he was three years old. He grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., graduating from Columbia University in 1939 and taking a Ph.D. there in 1948. He then joined the faculty of Boston University, with which he remained associated thereafter, but in a non-teaching capacity.

Isaac Asimov was a humanist and a rationalist. He didn't oppose genuine religious conviction in others but was against superstitious, unfounded beliefs. He was afraid of flying, only doing so twice in his entire life. Asimov was also a claustrophile, that is, he enjoyed small, enclosed spaces (the opposite of a claustrophobe).

On most political issues Asimov was a progressive, and he was a staunch supporter of the United States Democratic Party. In a television interview in the early 1970s he publicly endorsed George McGovern. He was unhappy at what he saw as an irrationalist tack taken by many progressive political activists from the late 1960s onwards. His defense of civil applications of nuclear power even after the Three Mile Island incident damaged his relations with some on the left. He issued many appeals for population control reflecting the perspective first articulated by Paul Ehrlich. In the closing years of his life Asimov blamed the deterioration of the quality of life that he perceived in New York on the shrinking tax base caused by middle class flight to the suburbs.

Asimov died on April 6, 1992, having been infected with HIV from tainted blood transfused during heart bypass surgery in 1983. That AIDS was the cause of his death was only revealed ten years later, in Janet Asimov's biography It's Been a Good Life.

Table of contents

Science Fiction Asimov began contributing stories to science fiction magazines in 1939; his short story "Nightfall[?]" (1941) is described in Bewildering Stories, issue 8, as one of "the most famous science-fiction stories of all time" [1] (http://www.bewilderingstories.com/issue8/asimov). In 1968 the Science Fiction Writers of America voted "Nightfall" the best science fiction short story ever written [2] (http://www.rudysbooks.com/asimovobit).

In 1942 he began his Foundation stories -- later collected in the Foundation Trilogy: Foundation (1951), Foundation and Empire[?] (1952), and Second Foundation[?] (1953) -- which recount the collapse and rebirth of a vast interstellar empire in a universe of the future. Taken together, they are his most famous work of science fiction. Many years later, he continued the series with Foundation's Edge (1982) and Foundation and Earth (1986) and then went back to before the original trilogy with Prelude to Foundation (1988) and Forward the Foundation[?] (1992).

His robot stories -- many of which were collected in I, Robot (1950) -- were begun at about the same time and promulgated a set of rules of ethics for robots (see Three Laws Of Robotics) and intelligent machines that greatly influenced other writers and thinkers in their treatment of the subject. One such short story, The Bicentennial Man[?] was made into a movie starring Robin Williams.

He also wrote a spoof science article The Endochronic Properties of Resublimated Thiotimoline in 1948, which he feared would affect his chances of obtaining his doctorate.

Non-fiction He published Asimov's Guide to the Bible in two volumes -- covering the Old Testament in 1967 and the New Testament in 1969 -- and then combined them into one 1300-page volume in 1981. Replete with maps and tables, the guide goes through the books of the Bible in order, explaining the history of each one and the political influences that affected it, as well as biographical information about the important characters.

He also published two volumes of autobiography: In Memory Yet Green[?] (1979) and In Joy Still Felt[?] (1980). A third autobiography, I. Asimov: A Memoir, was published in April 1994. The epilogue was written by his second wife, Janet Asimov (née Jeppson), shortly after his death.

Asimov also wrote several essays on the social contentions of his day, including "Thinking About Thinking" and "Science: Knock Plastic" (1967).

Quotes

  • "Early in my school career, I turned out to be an incorrigible disciplinary problem. I could understand what the teacher was saying as fast as she could say it, I found time hanging heavy, so I would occasionally talk to my neighbor. That was my great crime, I talked."
  • "I prefer rationalism to atheism. The question of God and other objects-of-faith are outside reason and play no part in rationalism, thus you don't have to waste your time in either attacking or defending."
  • "If I could trace my origins to Judas Maccabeus[?] or King David, that would not add one inch to my stature. It may well be that many East European Jews are descended from Khazars[?], I may be one of them. Who knows? And who cares?"
  • "In 1936, I first wrote science fiction. It was a long-winded attempt at writing an endless novel...which died. I remember one sentence, "Whole forests stood sere and brown in midsummer.". That was the first Asimovian science-fiction sentence.
  • "Night was a wonderful time in Brooklyn in the 1930s. Air conditioning was unknown except in movie houses, and so was television. There was nothing to keep one in the house. Furthermore, few people owned automobiles, so there was nothing to carry one away. That left the streets and the stoops. The very fullness served as an inhibition to crime."
  • "No one can possibly have lived through the Great Depression without being scarred by it. No amount of experience since the depression can convince someone who has lived through it that the world is safe economically."
  • "True literacy is becoming an arcane art and the United States is steadily dumbing down."
  • "Until I became a published writer, I remained completely ignorant of books on how to write and courses on the subject...they would have spoiled my natural style; made me observe caution; would have hedged me with rules."
  • "When I read about the way in which library funds are being cut and cut, I can only think that American society has found one more way to destroy itself."

Selected Bibliography

Science Fiction

Novels

Short Story Collections

Murder Mysteries

Novels

  • The Death Dealers (1958) (later republished as A Whiff of Death)
  • Murder at the ABA (1976)

Short Story Collections

  • Tales of the Black Widowers (1974)
  • More Tales of the Black Widowers (1976)
  • Casebook of the Black Widowers (1980)
  • Banquets of the Black Widowers (1984)
  • The Best Mysteries of Isaac Asimov (1986)
  • Puzzles of the Black Widowers (1990)

Non-fiction

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