Space Odyssey writer dies at 90 years old

Science fiction writer andavid diver Arthur C. Clarke has died this morning in Sri Lanka aftersuffering breathing problems. He was 90 years old. Clarke had been fighting post-polio syndrome since the 1960s andwas sometimes seen using a wheelchair because his weakened condition made itdifficult to walk.

Clarke was a promotor ofideas of interplanetary travel, the colonising by man of nearby planets and theurgent need for peaceful exploration of outer space. Obituaries from thepress describe him as “a recluse, a nut who lives in a tree in India orsomeplace.” Mr. Clarke moved to Sri Lanka because it helped him toa large extent neutralise the influence of western culture. As he approached80, it seemed that he had done almost everything that was possible in a singlelifetime, for he had written dozens of books, plumbed the depths of the Indian Ocean, carried the imagination of mankind to theremotest parts of the galaxy, and gained honours in every corner of the globe.

Clarke was fascinated byAmerican science-fiction magazines which reached Britain in bulk, probably asscrap-paper ballast in returning cargo ships. He was chairman of theBritish Interplanetary Society and collaborated with Stanley Kubrick on thecreation of 2001: Space Odyssey. He introduced the character of HAL thecomputer, and the concept of what lay behind the Star Gate. Clarke wrote anending that had Bowman-the-Star-Child detonate nuclear weapons on Earth, butKubrick chose to omit it as it was too similar to the Dr Strangelove finale.Having been installed in the Chelsea Hotel in New Yorkthrough the rest of 1964, Clarke moved back to Sri Lanka early in 1965 to continuework, before arriving at MGM’s Borehamwood studios in late summer as Kubrickgeared up towards production. He delivered a final script to Kubrick inDecember 1965, who immediately complained it was much too wordy. (Kubrick latertold a colleague that 2001 was “essentially a non-verbalexperience”.)

Clarke isresponsible for the concept of communications satellites and geosychronousorbits which he conceptualized in 1945. He was a commentator on the U.S. Apollomoonshots with Walter Cronkite in the 1960s.

His non-fiction volumes onspace travel and his explorations of the Great Barrier Reef and Indian Ocean earned him respect in the world of science,and in 1976 he became an honorary fellow of the American Institute ofAeronautics and Astronautics.

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