If you’re a fan of science fiction or robots, then you’ve surely heard of Isaac Asimov. Though born in Russia, Isaac Asimov is an American author, known for being the father of science fiction. In his lifetime, he published nearly five hundred books, which made science interesting and understandable by even the most casual sci-fi fan.
Born in Petrovichi, Russia, Isaac Asimov is the first of three children. He was born at a time of political turmoil in Russia, so at three years old, his father moved the family to Brooklyn, New York. As a student, Asimov was bright enough to skip several grades. His interest in science fiction started when he discovered Science Wonder Stories at their family-owned business. This encouraged him to write to the magazine and even try his hand at writing science fiction stories of his own. At fourteen, he published his first story, which he wrote for his high school newspaper.
In 1934, Asimov started attending Seth Low Junior College, which was part of Columbia University, majoring in biology. After two years, he entered Columbia and changed his major to chemistry. While studying, his interest in history and science fiction also flourished. He read many books on these subjects and wrote many stories. In 1939, he completed his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Columbia.
When he was seventeen, he wrote a story called Comic Corkscrew. Asimov’s father suggested that he submit the story to the magazine called Astounding Science Stories. He agreed, opting to go to the magazine office to submit instead of mailing the story, which was a little more expensive. What he did not expect was being directed to the office of John W. Campbell, editor of the magazine, whom he talked to for over an hour. The story was unfortunately rejected, but it returned to Asimov with suggestions for improvement by Campbell himself. This inspired him to continue writing, and in 1939, his first story, Marooned Off Vesta, was published in the magazine.
This was the beginning of Asimov’s career as a writer. Within that same year, two more of Asimov’s stories were published in Astounding. His early writing years consisted mostly of science fiction stories, which were published in magazines such as Astounding. In 1950, he published his first novel, Pebble in the Sky. That same year he also published I, Robot, a collection of short science fiction stories which gave birth to one of his most important contributions, the Three Laws of Robotics. The stories in the collection looked at the relationship between humans and robots and explored ethics and morality involving them. One of the stories in the collection was The Bicentennial Man, which became the basis for a later novel, The Positronic Man, and the popular ’90s film of the same name starring Robin Williams. In 1951, he wrote Foundation, a novel that explored the end of the Galactic Empire. His last science fiction novel before changing paths was The Naked Sun (1957).
After his first science fiction “era,” Asimov moved on to nonfiction, coauthoring a college-level textbook called Biochemistry and Human Metabolism. He continued writing textbooks, science books, and other nonfiction until the 1970s. Some of his work in nonfiction included The Human Body (1963), Asimov’s Guide to the Bible (1969), and his autobiography titled In Memory Yet Green (1979).
By the ’80s, Asimov returned to science fiction with Foundation’s Edge, the continuation of his Foundation Series. He also wrote sequels and prequels to his already-existing work. Asimov also forayed into mystery fiction with The Black Widowers.
Other than science fiction, Asimov also had a wide range of interests, which were reflected in the organizations and societies that he participated in. This included the Baker Street Irregulars, the leading Sherlock Holmes society; the Wolfe Pack, a fan group of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe mysteries, and the Trap Door Spiders, an all-male literary club. Asimov was also one of the signers of the Humanist Manifesto, a founding member of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP, now the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry), and a “special science consultant” on Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
Asimov passed away in 1992 at age 72 from kidney and heart failure. He had been previously diagnosed with AIDS that he contracted from a blood transfusion during bypass surgery. By the time of his death, he had published almost 500 stories, novels, books, and essays. For his prolific work in science fiction, his awards include several Hugo awards, Locus awards, and Nebula awards, and various recognitions from scientific institutions such as the 5020 Asimov Asteroid, a crater on the planet Mars, and the designation of National Robotics Week in the United States every second week of April.
In 2015, he was inducted member of the New York State Writers Hall of Fame.
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