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Sir Arthur C. Clarke, CBE

Arthur C. Clarke at his home office in Colombo, Sri Lanka, 28 March 2005
Born 16 December 1917(1917-12-16)
Minehead, Somerset, England, United Kingdom
Died 19 March 2008 (aged 90)
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Pen name Charles Willis,[1]
E.G. O'Brien[1]
Occupation Author, Inventor
Nationality British and
Sri Lankan
Genres Hard science fiction
Popular science
Subjects Science
Notable work(s) Childhood's End
2001: A Space Odyssey
Rendezvous with Rama
The Fountains of Paradise
Spouse(s) Marilyn Mayfield (1953-1964)
Official website

Sri Lankabhimanya Sir Arthur Charles Clarke, CBE, FRAS (16 December 1917 – 19 March 2008) was a British science fiction author, inventor, and futurist, most famous for the novel 2001: A Space Odyssey, written in collaboration with director Stanley Kubrick, a collaboration which also produced the film of the same name; and as a host and commentator in the British television series Mysterious World.[2][3] For many years, Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and Arthur C. Clarke were known as the "Big Three" of science fiction.[4]

Clarke served in the Royal Air Force as a radar instructor and technician from 1941–1946. He proposed a satellite communication system in 1945 which won him the Franklin Institute Stuart Ballantine Gold Medal in 1963.[5][6] He was the chairman of the British Interplanetary Society from 1947–1950 and again in 1953.[7] Later, he helped fight for the preservation of lowland gorillas.[8][9]

Clarke emigrated to Sri Lanka in 1956 largely to pursue his interest in scuba diving,[10] and lived there until his death. He was knighted by the British monarchy in 1998,[11][12] and was awarded Sri Lanka's highest civil honour, Sri Lankabhimanya, in 2005.[13]



Clarke was born in Minehead, Somerset, England.[4] As a boy he enjoyed stargazing and reading old American science fiction pulp magazines. After secondary school and studying at Huish's Grammar School, Taunton, he was unable to afford a university education and got a job as an auditor in the pensions section of the Board of Education.[14]

During the Second World War he served in the Royal Air Force as a radar specialist and was involved in the early warning radar defence system, which contributed to the RAF's success during the Battle of Britain. Clarke spent most of his wartime service working on Ground Controlled Approach (GCA) radar as documented in the semi-autobiographical Glide Path, his only non-science-fiction novel. Although GCA did not see much practical use in the war, it proved vital to the Berlin Airlift of 1948–1949 after several years of development. Clarke initially served in the ranks, and was a Corporal instructor on radar at No 9 Radio School, RAF Yatesbury. He was commissioned as a Pilot Officer (Technical Branch) on 27 May 1943.[15] He was promoted Flying Officer on 27 November 1943.[16] He was appointed chief training instructor at RAF Honiley and was demobilised with the rank of Flight Lieutenant. After the war he earned a first-class degree in mathematics and physics at King's College London.

In the postwar years, Clarke became the Chairman of the British Interplanetary Society from 1946-1947 [17] and again from 1951-1953[18]. Although he was not the originator of the concept of geostationary satellites, one of his most important contributions may be his idea that they would be ideal telecommunications relays. He advanced this idea in a paper privately circulated among the core technical members of the BIS in 1945. The concept was published in Wireless World in October of that year.[19][20][21] Clarke also wrote a number of non-fiction books describing the technical details and societal implications of rocketry and space flight. The most notable of these may be The Exploration of Space (1951) and The Promise of Space (1968). In recognition of these contributions the geostationary orbit 36,000 kilometres (22,000 mi) above the equator is officially recognized by the International Astronomical Union as a Clarke Orbit.[22]

On a trip to Florida in 1953[23] Clarke met and quickly married Marilyn Mayfield, a 22-year-old American divorcee with a young son. They separated permanently after six months, although the divorce was not finalised until 1964.[24] "The marriage was incompatible from the beginning", says Clarke.[24] Clarke never remarried but was close to Leslie Ekanayake, who died in 1977. In his biography of Stanley Kubrick, John Baxter cites Clarke's homosexuality as a reason why Clarke relocated, due to more tolerant laws in regards to homosexuality in Sri Lanka.[25] Journalists who inquired of Clarke whether he was gay were told, "No, merely mildly cheerful."[26] However, Michael Moorcock has written

Everyone knew he was gay. In the 1950s I'd go out drinking with his boyfriend. We met his proteges, western and eastern, and their families: people who had only the most generous praise for his kindness. Self-absorbed he might be, and a teetotaller, but an impeccable gent through and through.[27]

Moorcook's assertion is not supported by other reports, although in an interview in the July 1986 issue of Playboy magazine,[28] Clarke stated "Of course. Who hasn't?" when asked if he has had bisexual experiences.[29]

Clarke also maintained a vast collection of manuscripts and personal memoirs, maintained by his brother Fred Clarke in Taunton, Somerset, England, and referred to as the "Clarkives." Clarke has said that some of his private diaries will not be published until 30 years after his death. When asked why they were sealed up, he answered "'Well, there might be all sorts of embarrassing things in them".[30]

Writing career

While Clarke had a few stories published in fanzines, between 1937 and 1945, his first professional sales appeared in Astounding Science Fiction in 1946: "Loophole" was published in April, while "Rescue Party", his first sale, was published in May. Along with his writing Clarke briefly worked as Assistant Editor of Science Abstracts (1949) before devoting himself to writing full-time from 1951 onward. Clarke also contributed to the Dan Dare series published in Eagle, and his first three published novels were written for children.

Clarke corresponded with C. S. Lewis in the 1940s and 1950s and they once met in an Oxford pub, The Eastgate, to discuss science fiction and space travel. Clarke, after Lewis's death, voiced great praise for him, saying the Ransom Trilogy was one of the few works of science fiction that could be considered literature.

In 1948 he wrote "The Sentinel" for a BBC competition. Though the story was rejected, it changed the course of Clarke's career. Not only was it the basis for A Space Odyssey, but "The Sentinel" also introduced a more mystical and cosmic element to Clarke's work. Many of Clarke's later works feature a technologically advanced but still-prejudiced mankind being confronted by a superior alien intelligence. In the cases of The City and the Stars (and its original version, Against the Fall of Night), Childhood's End, and the 2001 series, this encounter produces a conceptual breakthrough that accelerates humanity into the next stage of its evolution. In Clarke's authorized biography, Neil McAleer writes that: "many readers and critics still consider [Childhood's End] Arthur C. Clarke's best novel."[24]

Clarke lived in Sri Lanka from 1956 until his death in 2008, having emigrated there when it was still called Ceylon, first in Unawatuna on the south coast, and then in Colombo.[26] Clarke held citizenship of both the UK and Sri Lanka.[31] He was an avid scuba diver and a member of the Underwater Explorers Club. In addition to writing, Clarke and business partner, Mike Wilson set up several diving-related ventures. In 1961, while filming off Great Basses Reef, Wilson found a wreck and retrieved silver coins. Plans to dive on the wreck the following year were stopped when Clarke developed paralysis, ultimately diagnosed as polio. A year later, Clarke observed the salvage from the shore and the surface. The ship, ultimately identified as belonging to the Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb, yielded fused bags of silver rupees, cannons, and other artifacts, carefully documented, became the basis for The Treasure of the Great Reef.[24][32] Living in Sri Lanka and learning its history also inspired the backdrop for his novel The Fountains of Paradise in which he described a space elevator. This, he believed, would make rocket based access to space obsolete and, more so than geostationary satellites, would ultimately be his scientific legacy.[33]

His many predictions culminated in 1958 when he began a series of essays in various magazines that eventually became Profiles of the Future published in book form in 1962. A timetable[34] up to the year 2100 describes inventions and ideas including such things as a "global library" for 2005. The same work also contained "Clarke's First Law" and text which would become Clarke's three laws in later editions.[24]

Later years

In the early 1970s Clarke signed a three-book publishing deal, a record for a science-fiction writer at the time. The first of the three was Rendezvous with Rama in 1973, which won him all the main genre awards and has spawned sequels that, along with the 2001 series, formed the backbone of his later career.

In 1975 Clarke's short story "The Star" was not included in a new high school English textbook in Sri Lanka because of concerns that it might offend Roman Catholics even though it had already been selected. The same textbook also caused controversy because it replaced Shakespeare's work with that of Bob Dylan, John Lennon and Isaac Asimov.[citation needed]

In the 1980s Clarke became well known to many for his television programmes Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World, Arthur C. Clarke's World of Strange Powers and Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious Universe. In 1986 he was named a Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America.[35] In 1988 he was diagnosed with post-polio syndrome, having originally contracted polio in 1962, and needed to use a wheelchair most of the time thereafter.[26] Sir Arthur C Clarke was for many years a Vice Patron of the British Polio Fellowship.[36]

In the 1989 Queen's Birthday Honours Clarke was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) "for services to British cultural interests in Sri Lanka".[37] The same year he became the first Chancellor of the International Space University, serving from 1989 to 2004 and he also served as Chancellor of Moratuwa University in Sri Lanka from 1979 to 2002.

In 1994, Clarke appeared in a science fiction film; he portrayed himself in the telefilm Without Warning, an American production about an apocalyptic alien first contact scenario presented in the form of a faux newscast.

On 26 May 2000 he was made a Knight Bachelor "for services to literature" at a ceremony in Colombo.[12][38] The award of a knighthood had been announced in the 1998 New Year Honours,[11][39] but investiture with the award had been delayed, at Clarke's request, because of an accusation, by the British tabloid The Sunday Mirror, of paedophilia.[40][41] The charge was subsequently found to be baseless by the Sri Lankan police.[42][43] According to The Daily Telegraph (London), the Mirror subsequently published an apology, and Clarke chose not to sue for defamation.[44][45] Clarke was then duly knighted.

Although he and his home were unharmed by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake tsunami, his "Arthur C. Clarke Diving School" at Hikkaduwa was destroyed. He made humanitarian appeals, and the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation worked towards a better disaster notification systems.[46] The school has since been rebuilt.

In September 2007, he provided a video greeting for NASA's Cassini probe's flyby of Iapetus (which plays an important role in 2001: A Space Odyssey).[47] In December 2007 on his 90th birthday, Clarke recorded a video message to his friends and fans bidding them good-bye.[48]

Clarke died in Sri Lanka on 19 March 2008 after suffering from breathing problems, according to Rohan de Silva, one of his aides.[26][49][50][51] His aide described the cause as respiratory complications and heart failure stemming from post-polio syndrome.[52]

Only a few days before he died, he had reviewed the manuscript of his final work, The Last Theorem, on which he had collaborated by e-mail with his contemporary Frederik Pohl.[53] The book was published after Clarke's death.[54] Clarke was buried in Colombo in traditional Sri Lankan fashion on 22 March. His younger brother, Fred Clarke, and his Sri Lankan adoptive family were among the thousands in attendance.[55]

The Big Three

Clarke, Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein became known as the "Big Three" of science fiction.[4] Clarke and Heinlein began writing to each other after The Exploration of Space was published in 1951, and first met in person the following year. They remained on cordial terms for many years, including visits in the United States and Sri Lanka. During a 1984 meeting at the home of Larry Niven in California, however, Heinlein attacked Clarke verbally over his views on United States foreign and space policy (especially the Strategic Defense Initiative). Although the two reconciled, formally, they remained distant until Heinlein's death in 1988.[24]

Clarke and Asimov first met in New York City in 1973, and they traded friendly insults and jabs for decades. They established a verbal agreement, the "Clarke–Asimov Treaty", that when asked who was best, the two would say Clarke was the best science fiction writer and Asimov was the best science writer. In 1972, Clarke put the "treaty" on paper in his dedication to Report on Planet Three and Other Speculations.[24][56]

Position on religion

Themes of religion and spirituality appear in much of Clarke's writing, though his position on "Religion" is ultimately somewhat complicated. He said, "Any path to knowledge is a path to God—or Reality, whichever word one prefers to use".[57] and described himself as 'fascinated by the concept of God'. When he entered the RAF, he insisted that his dog tags be marked "pantheist" rather than the default, Church of England.[24] In 2000, Clarke told the Sri Lankan newspaper, The Island, "I don't believe in God or an afterlife,"[58] and he identifies himself as an atheist.[59] He was honoured as a Humanist Laureate in the International Academy of Humanism.[60] He has also described himself as a "crypto-Buddhist", insisting that Buddhism is not a religion.[61] He displayed little interest about religion early in his life, for example, only discovering a few months after marrying his wife, that she had strong Presbyterian beliefs.

In a three-day "dialogue on man and his world" with Alan Watts, Clarke stated that he was biased against religion and said that he could not forgive religions for what he perceived as their inability to prevent atrocities and wars over time.[62]

In a reflection of the dialogue where he more broadly stated "mankind", his introduction to the penultimate episode of Mysterious World, entitled, Strange Skies, Clarke said, "I sometimes think that the universe is a machine designed for the perpetual astonishment of astronomers."

Near the very end of that same episode, the last segment of which covered the Star of Bethlehem, he stated that his favourite theory[63] was that it might be a pulsar. Given that pulsars were discovered in the interval between his writing the short story, The Star (1955), and making Mysterious World (1980), and given the more recent discovery of pulsar PSR B1913+16, he said, "How romantic, if even now, we can hear the dying voice of a star, which heralded the Christian era."[63]

Clarke left written instructions for a funeral that stated: "Absolutely no religious rites of any kind, relating to any religious faith, should be associated with my funeral."[64]

A famous quote of Clarke's is often cited: "One of the great tragedies of mankind is that morality has been hijacked by religion."[61]

Views on paranormal phenomena

Early in his career, Clarke had a fascination with the paranormal and stated that it was part of the inspiration for his novel Childhood's End. Citing the numerous promising paranormal claims that were shown to be fraudulent, Clarke described his earlier openness to the paranormal having turned to being "an almost total skeptic" by the time of his 1992 biography.[24] During interviews, both in 1993 and 2004–2005, he stated that he did not believe in reincarnation, citing that there was no mechanism to make it possible, though he stated "I'm always paraphrasing J. B. S. Haldane: 'The universe is not only stranger than we imagine, it's stranger than we can imagine.'"[65][66] (He loved quoting Haldane.)[24] He described the idea of reincarnation as fascinating, but favored a finite existence.[67]

Clarke was well known for his television series investigating paranormal phenomena Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World, Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious Universe and Arthur C. Clarke's World of Strange Powers, enough to be parodied in an episode of The Goodies in which his show is canceled after it is claimed he does not exist.

Themes, style, and influences

Clarke's work is marked by an optimistic view of science empowering mankind's exploration of the Solar System, and the world's oceans. Clarke's images of the future often feature a Utopian setting with highly developed technology, ecology, and society, based on the author's ideals.[68] His early published stories would usually feature the extrapolation of a technological innovation or scientific breakthrough into the underlying decadence of his own society.

"The Sentinel" (1948) introduced a religious theme to Clarke's work, a theme that he later explored more deeply in The City and the Stars (and its earlier version, Against the Fall of Night). Surprisingly for a writer who is often held up as an example of hard science fiction's obsession with technology, three of Clarke's novels have this as a theme. Another theme of "The Sentinel" was the notion that the evolution of an intelligent species would eventually make them something close to gods, which was also explored in his 1953 novel Childhood's End. He also briefly touched upon this idea in his novel Imperial Earth. This idea of transcendence through evolution seems to have been influenced by Olaf Stapledon, who wrote a number of books dealing with this theme. Clarke has said of Stapledon's 1930 book Last and First Men that "No other book had a greater influence on my life ... [It] and its successor Star Maker (1937) are the twin summits of [Stapledon's] literary career".[69]

Clarke also took a major interest in "Inner Space", which can be seen in his stories, Big Game Hunt, The Deep Range and The Shining Ones, as well as Dolphin Island.

Adapted screenplays

2001: A Space Odyssey

Clarke's first venture into film was the Stanley Kubrick directed 2001: A Space Odyssey. Kubrick and Clarke had met in New York City in 1964 to discuss the possibility of a collaborative film project. As the idea developed, it was decided that the story for the film was to be loosely based on Clarke's short story "The Sentinel", written in 1948 as an entry in a BBC short story competition. Originally, Clarke was going to write the screenplay for the film, but Kubrick suggested during one of their brainstorming meetings that before beginning on the actual script, they should let their imaginations soar free by writing a novel first, which the film would be based on upon its completion. "This is more or less the way it worked out, though toward the end, novel and screenplay were being written simultaneously, with feedback in both directions. Thus I rewrote some sections after seeing the movie rushes -- a rather expensive method of literary creation, which few other authors can have enjoyed."[70] The novel ended up being published a few months after the release of the movie.

Due to the hectic schedule of the film's production, Kubrick and Clarke had difficulty collaborating on the book. Clarke completed a draft of the novel at the end of 1964 with the plan to publish in 1965 in advance of the film's release in 1966. After many delays the film was released in the spring of 1968, before the book was completed. The book was credited to Clarke alone. Clarke later complained that this had the effect of making the book into a novelisation, that Kubrick had manipulated circumstances to downplay Clarke's authorship. For these and other reasons, the details of the story differ slightly from the book to the movie. The film contains little explanation for the events taking place. Clarke, on the other hand, wrote thorough explanations of "cause and effect" for the events in the novel. James Randi later recounted that upon seeing 2001 for the first time, Clarke left the movie theatre during the first break crying because he was so upset about how the movie had turned out.[71] Despite their differences, both film and novel were well received.[72][73][74]

In 1972, Clarke published The Lost Worlds of 2001, which included his accounts of the production, and alternate versions, of key scenes. The "special edition" of the novel A Space Odyssey (released in 1999) contains an introduction by Clarke in which he documents the events leading to the release of the novel and film.


In 1982 Clarke continued the 2001 epic with a sequel, 2010: Odyssey Two. This novel was also made into a film, 2010, directed by Peter Hyams for release in 1984. Because of the political environment in America in the 1980s, the film presents a Cold War theme, with the looming tensions of nuclear warfare not featured in the novel. The film was not considered to be as revolutionary or artistic as 2001, but the reviews were still positive.

Clarke's email correspondence with Hyams was published in 1984.[75][76] Titled The Odyssey File: The Making of 2010, and co-authored with Hyams, it illustrates his fascination with the then-pioneering medium of email and its use for them to communicate on an almost daily basis at the time of planning and production of the film while living on different continents. The book also includes Clarke's list of the best science-fiction films ever made.

Clarke appeared in the film, first as the man feeding the pigeons while Dr. Heywood Floyd is engaged in a conversation in front of the White House. Later, in the hospital scene with David Bowman's mother, an image of the cover of Time portrays Clarke as the American President and Kubrick as the Russian Premier.

Rendezvous with Rama

Clarke's award-winning 1972 novel Rendezvous with Rama was optioned many years ago, but is currently in "development hell". Director David Fincher is attached to the project, together with actor Morgan Freeman.[citation needed]

Beyond 2001

2001: A Space Odyssey, Clarke's most famous work, was extended well beyond the 1968 movie as the Space Odyssey series. Its 1984 sequel, 2010 was based on Clarke's 1982 novel, 2010: Odyssey Two. There were two further sequels that have not been adapted to the cinema: 2061: Odyssey Three and 3001: The Final Odyssey.

In 2061, Halley's Comet swings back to nearby Earth, and Clarke uses the event as an excuse to take an aged Dr. Heywood Floyd on a romp through the solar system, visiting the comet before crash-landing on Europa, where he discovers the fates of Dave Bowman, HAL 9000, and the Europan life-forms which have been protected by the Monoliths.

With 3001: The Final Odyssey, Clarke returns to examine the character of astronaut Frank Poole, who was killed outside Discovery by HAL in the original novel and film, but whose body was revived in the year 3001.

Essays and short stories

Most of Clarke's essays (from 1934 to 1998) can be found in the book Greetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds! (2000). Most of his short stories can be found in the book The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke (2001). Another collection of early essays was published in The View from Serendip (1977), which also included one short piece of fiction, "When the Twerms Came". He wrote short stories under the pseudonyms of E. G. O'Brien and Charles Willis.

Concept of the geostationary communications satellite

Clarke's most important scientific contribution may be his idea that geostationary satellites would be ideal telecommunications relays. He described this concept in a paper titled Extra-Terrestrial Relays — Can Rocket Stations Give Worldwide Radio Coverage?, published in Wireless World in October 1945.[77] The geostationary orbit is now sometimes known as the Clarke Orbit or the Clarke Belt in his honour.

However, it is not clear that this article was actually the inspiration for the modern telecommunications satellite. John R. Pierce, of Bell Labs, arrived at the idea independently in 1954 and he was actually involved in the Echo satellite and Telstar projects. Moreover, Pierce stated that the idea was "in the air" at the time and certain to be developed regardless of Clarke's publication. In an interview given shortly before his death, Clarke was asked whether he thought communications satellites would become important; he replied

"I'm often asked why I didn't try to patent the idea of communications satellites. My answer is always, ‘A patent is really a license to be sued.' "[78]

Though different from Clarke's idea of telecom relay, the idea of communicating with satellites in geostationary orbit itself had been described earlier. For example, the concept of geostationary satellites was described in Hermann Oberth's 1923 book Die Rakete zu den Planetenräumen[79] (The Rocket into Interplanetary Space) and then the idea of radio communication with those satellites in Herman Potočnik's (written under the pseudonym Hermann Noordung) 1928 book Das Problem der Befahrung des Weltraums — der Raketen-Motor (The Problem of Space Travel — The Rocket Motor) sections: Providing for Long Distance Communications and Safety[80] and (possibly referring to the idea of relaying messages via satellite, but not that 3 would be optimal) Observing and Researching the Earth's Surface[81] published in Berlin. Clarke acknowledged the earlier concept in his book Profiles of the Future.[82]

Awards, honours and other recognition

Partial bibliography

Select Novels

Short story collections


  • The Exploration of Space. New York: Harper, 1951
  • Voices Under the Sea
  • Voices from the Sky: Previews of the Coming Space Age. New York: Harper & Row, 1965
  • Astounding Days: A Science Fictional Autobiography. London: Gollancz, 1989
  • Greetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds! : Collected Works 1934-1998. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999
  • The View From Serendip. Random House. ISBN 0394417968.  1977

Cited references

  1. ^ a b "Arthur C. Clarke". books and writers. 2003. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  2. ^ "Mysterious World" (1980) at the Internet Movie Database
  3. ^ Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World on YouTube. Retrieved on 23 March 2008.
  4. ^ a b c Lech Mintowt-Czyz and Steve Bird (19 March 2008). "Science fiction author Arthur C Clarke dies aged 90". London: The Times. Retrieved 2008-03-19. "Science fiction writer Sir Arthur C Clarke has died aged 90 in his adopted home of Sri Lanka, it was confirmed tonight." 
  5. ^ The 1945 Proposal by Arthur C. Clarke for Geostationary Satellite Communications
  6. ^ The Arthur C. Clarke Foundation
  7. ^ Moon Miners' Manifesto: Arthur C Clarke nominated for Nobel
  8. ^ Yahoomc: test
  9. ^ Campaign for gorilla-friendly mobiles| News | This is London
  10. ^ "Remembering Arthur C. Clarke". Retrieved 2008-03-27. 
  11. ^ a b c "The new knight of science fiction". BBC News (BBC). 1 January 1998. Retrieved 26 August 2009. 
  12. ^ a b c "Arthur C Clarke knighted". BBC News (BBC). 26 May 2000. Retrieved 26 August 2009. 
  13. ^ a b Government Notification—National Honours, November 2005. Retrieved on 20 October 2008
  14. ^ London Gazette: no. 34321, p. 5798, 8 September 1936. Retrieved on 2008-03-19.
  15. ^ London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 36089, pp. 3162–3163, 9 July 1943. Retrieved on 2008-03-19.
  16. ^ London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 36271, p. 5289, 30 November c1943. Retrieved on 2008-03-19.
  17. ^ Journal of the British Interplanetary Society Vol 6 (1946)
  18. ^ Parkinson, B. (2008) (Ed.)'Interplanetary - A History of the British Interplanetary Society', p.93
  19. ^ "Arthur C. Clarke Extra Terrestrial Relays". Retrieved 2007-02-08. 
  20. ^ "Peacetime Uses for V2" (JPG). Wireless World. February 1945. Retrieved 2007-02-08. 
  21. ^ "Extra-Terrestrial Relays Can Rocket Stations Give World-wide Radio Coverage?". Wireless World. October 1945. Retrieved 2007-02-08. 
  22. ^ "Clarke Foundation Biography". Retrieved 2008-03-19. 
  23. ^ Arthur C Clarke - a quick summary
  24. ^ a b c d e f g h i j McAleer, Neil. "Arthur C. Clarke: The Authorized Biography", Contemporary Books, Chicago, 1992. ISBN 0-8092-3720-2
  25. ^ Baxter, John (1997). Stanley Kubrick: A Biography. New York: Carroll & Graff. p. 203. ISBN 0786704853. "But Clarke and Kubrick made a match. [...] Both had a streak of homoeroticism[...]" 
  26. ^ a b c d "Arthur C. Clarke, Premier Science Fiction Writer, Dies at 90.". New York Times. 18 March 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-19. "Arthur C. Clarke, a writer whose seamless blend of scientific expertise and poetic imagination helped usher in the space age, died early Wednesday in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where he had lived since 1956. He was 90. He had battled debilitating post-polio syndrome for years." 
  27. ^ Michael Moorcock (2008-03-22). "Brave New Worlds". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-08-25. 
  28. ^ NNDB page on Clarke
  29. ^ Clarke's interview in Playboy magazine
  30. ^ Man on the moon
  31. ^ "Happy Birthday Sir Arthur C. Clarke!". Sunday Observer. 2005-12-11. Retrieved 2007-02-08. 
  32. ^ Throckmorton, Peter (1964). "The Great Basses Wreck" (PDF). Expedition 6 (3, Spring): 21–31. ISSN 0014-4738. Retrieved February 3, 2010. 
  33. ^ Personal e-mail from Sir Arthur Clarke to Jerry Stone, Director of the Sir Arthur Clarke Awards, 1 November 2006
  34. ^ "Chart of the Future". Retrieved 2007-02-08. 
  35. ^ SFWA Grand Masters
  36. ^ British Polio Fellowship - Home
  37. ^ a b London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 51772, p. 16, 16 June 1989. Retrieved on 2008-03-19.
  38. ^ a b Letters Patent were issued by Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom on 16 March 2000 to authorise this. (see London Gazette: no. 55796, p. 3167, 21 March 2000. Retrieved on 2008-03-19.)
  39. ^ a b London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 54993, p. 2, 30 December 1997. Retrieved on 2008-03-19.
  40. ^ It doesn't do any harm ... most of the damage comes from fuss made. Sunday Mirror, Feb 1, 1998 Retrieved on 2008-03-24
  41. ^ Smirk of a pervert and a liar. Sunday Mirror, Feb 8, 1998 Retrieved on 2008-03-24
  42. ^ "Sci-fi novelist cleared of sex charges". BBC News. 1998-04-06. Retrieved 2008-02-11. 
  43. ^ "Child sex file could close on sci-fi writer". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 2007-03-19. 
  44. ^ "Sir Arthur C Clarke". The Daily Telegraph. 20 March 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-27. 
  45. ^
  46. ^ Sir Arthur C. Clarke (February 2005), "Letter from Sri Lanka", Wired (San Francisco: Condé Nast) 13.02, ISSN 1059-1028,, retrieved 17 August 2009 
  47. ^ Video greeting to NASA JPL by Arthur C. Clarke. Retrieved 24 September 2007
  48. ^ "Sir Arthur C Clarke 90th Birthday reflections". 2007-12-10. Retrieved 2008-02-22. 
  49. ^ Writer Arthur C Clarke dies at 90, BBC News, 18 March 2008
  50. ^ Sci-fi guru Arthur C. Clarke dies at 90, MSNBC, 18 March 2008
  51. ^ "Arthur C. Clarke: The Wired Words". Wired Blog Network. 18 March 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-22. 
  52. ^ Gardner, Simon (March 19, 2008). "Sci-fi guru Arthur C. Clarke dies at 90". Reuters India. Retrieved February 6, 2010. 
  53. ^ Pohl, Frederik (5 January 2009). "Sir Arthur and I". The Way the Future Blogs. Retrieved 22 January 2009. 
  54. ^ "Last odyssey for sci-fi guru Arthur C. Clarke". Agence France-Presse. March 18, 2008. Retrieved February 6,2010. "Just a few days before he died, Clarke reviewed the final manuscript of his latest novel, "The Last Theorem" co-written with American author Frederik Pohl, which is to be published later this year." 
  55. ^ "Sci-fi writer Clarke laid to rest". BBC. 2008-03-22. Retrieved 2008-03-22. 
  56. ^ Edward Seiler and John H. Jenkins (1994–2009). "Isaac Asimov FAQ". Isaac Asimov Home Page. Retrieved January 26,2010. 
  57. ^ "Sir Arthur C. Clarke: The Times obituary". London: Times Online. 2008-03-19. Retrieved 2008-08-06. 
  58. ^ Midwee01
  59. ^ "…Stanley [Kubrick] is a Jew and I'm an atheist". Clarke quoted in Jeromy Agel (Ed.) (1970). The Making of Kubrick's 2001: p.306
  60. ^ The International Academy Of Humanism at the website of the Council for Secular Humanism. (Retrieved 18 October 2007).
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  62. ^ Clarke, Arthur C.; Watts, Alan (January). At the Interface: Technology and Mysticism. 19. Chicago, Ill.: HMH Publishing. 94. ISBN 0032-1478. OCLC 3534353. 
  63. ^ a b "Mysterious world strange skies 3 of 3". YouTube. Retrieved 2008-08-06. 
  64. ^ "TIME Quotes of the Day". 2008-03-19.,26174,1723669,00.html. Retrieved 2008-03-20. 
  65. ^ Jeff Greenwald (July/August 1993), "Arthur C. Clarke On Life", Wired (San Francisco: Condé Nast) 1.03, ISSN 1059-1028,, retrieved 17 August 2009 
  66. ^ José Cordeiro (July/August 2008), The Futurist Interviews Sir. Arthur C. Clarke, 42(4), Bethesda, MD: World Future Society, ISSN 0016-3317,, retrieved 16 August 2009 
  67. ^ Andrew Robinson (10 October 1997), "The cosmic godfather", Times Higher Education (London: TSL Education Ltd.), ISSN 0049-3929,, retrieved 17 August 2009 
  68. ^ Guy Riddihough, Review of The City and the Stars  in Science , (4 July 2008) Vol. 321. no. 5885, pp. 42 - 43 DOI: 10.1126/science.1161705: What marks the book out are Clarke's sweeping vistas, grand ideas, and ultimately optimistic view of humankind's future in the cosmos.
  69. ^ "Arthur C. Clarke Quotes". Retrieved 2007-02-08. 
  70. ^ Arthur C. Clarke, 90; scientific visionary, acclaimed writer of '2001: A Space Odyssey'
  71. ^ "Randi shares some stories regarding his friend Arthur C. Clarke and makes a comparison of Stanley Kubrick to Steve Jobs". Retrieved 2008-04-24. 
  72. ^ "Box Office Mojo". Retrieved 2007-02-08. 
  73. ^ "Movies.". Retrieved 2007-02-08. 
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  75. ^ Arthur C. Clarke and Peter Hyams. The Odyssey File. Ballantine Books, 1984.
  76. ^ Excerpt from The Odyssey File.
  77. ^ "Extra-Terrestrial Relays — Can Rocket Stations Give Worldwide Radio Coverage?". Arthur C. Clark. October 1945. Retrieved 2009-03-04. 
  78. ^ "Final Thoughts from Sir Arthur C. Clarke". March 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-22. 
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  80. ^ "Providing for Long Distance Communications and Safety". Retrieved 2008-12-23. 
  81. ^ "Observing and Researching the Earth's Surface". Retrieved 2008-12-23. 
  82. ^ Clarke, Arthur C. (1984). Profiles of the Future: An Inquiry Into the Limits of the Possible. New York, New York: Holt, Rinehart & Wilson. pp. 205n. ISBN 0030697832.  "INTELSAT, the International Telecommunications Satellite Organisation which operates the global system, has started calling it the Clarke orbit. Flattered though I am, honesty compels me to point out that the concept of such an orbit predates my 1945 paper 'Extra Terrestrial Relays' by at least twenty years. I didn't invent it, but only annexed it."
  83. ^ Summary List of UNESCO Prizes: List of Prizewinners, p. 12
  84. ^ Peebles, Curtis. "Names of US manned spacecraft". Spaceflight, Vol. 20, 2, Fev. 1978. Spaceflight. Retrieved 2008-08-06. 
  85. ^ Arthur C. Clarke - Awards
  86. ^ Burns, John F. "Colombo Journal; A Nonfiction Journey to a More Peaceful World" New York Times, 28 November 1994
  87. ^ Iain Thomson (19 March 2008), Sir Arthur C Clarke dies, Information World Reviews, Oxford: VNU Business Publications, OCLC 61313783,, retrieved 18 August 2009 
  88. ^ "Sir Arthur Clarke Named Recipient of 2004 Heinlein Award". Press release. 22 May 2004. Retrieved 20 June 2009. 
  89. ^ "1963 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  90. ^ "1973 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  91. ^ "1974 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  92. ^ "1979 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  93. ^ "1980 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  94. ^ "1983 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Perhaps it is better to be un-sane and happy, than sane and un-happy. But it is the best of all to be sane and happy. Whether our descendants can achieve that goal will be the greatest challenge of the future. Indeed, it may well decide whether we have any future.

Sir Arthur Charles Clarke (16 December 191719 March 2008) was a British author, inventor and futurist.

See also: Childhood's End and 2001: A Space Odyssey



I can never look now at the Milky Way without wondering from which of those banked clouds of stars the emissaries are coming. ... I do not think we will have to wait for long.
  • I can never look now at the Milky Way without wondering from which of those banked clouds of stars the emissaries are coming. If you will pardon so commonplace a simile, we have set off the fire alarm and have nothing to do but to wait.
    I do not think we will have to wait for long
    • "The Sentinel" (1948), original titled "Sentinel of Eternity" this is the short story which later provided the fundamental ideas for 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) written by Clarke and Stanley Kubrick.
It is not easy to see how the more extreme forms of nationalism can long survive when men have seen the Earth in its true perspective as a single small globe against the stars.
  • If we have learned one thing from the history of invention and discovery, it is that, in the long run — and often in the short one — the most daring prophecies seem laughably conservative.
    • The Exploration of Space (1951), p. 111
We stand now at the turning point between two eras. Behind us is a past to which we can never return...
  • It is not easy to see how the more extreme forms of nationalism can long survive when men have seen the Earth in its true perspective as a single small globe against the stars.
    • The Exploration of Space (1951), p. 187
  • We stand now at the turning point between two eras. Behind us is a past to which we can never return ... The coming of the rocket brought to an end a million years of isolation ... the childhood of our race was over and history as we know it began.
    • Exploration of Space (1952)
  • All explorers are seeking something they have lost. It is seldom that they find it, and more seldom still that the attainment brings them greater happiness than the quest.
    • The City and the Stars (1956)
Human judges can show mercy. But against the laws of nature, there is no appeal.
  • Science can destroy religion by ignoring it as well as by disproving its tenets. No one ever demonstrated, so far as I am aware, the non-existence of Zeus or Thor — but they have few followers now.
    • Childhood's End (1953), p. 15
  • They will have time enough, in those endless aeons, to attempt all things, and to gather all knowledge ... no Gods imagined by our minds have ever possessed the powers they will command ... But for all that, they may envy us, basking in the bright afterglow of Creation; for we knew the Universe when it was young.
    • Profiles of the Future (1962)
  • Yet now, as he roared across the night sky toward and unknown destiny, he found himself facing that bleak and ultimate question which so few men can answer to their satisfaction. What have I done with my life, he asked himself, that the world will be poorer if I leave it.
    • Glide Path (1963) Chapter 27
One cannot have superior science and inferior morals. The combination is unstable and self-destroying.
  • Human judges can show mercy. But against the laws of nature, there is no appeal.
    • "Maelstrom II" (1965)
  • As our own species is in the process of proving, one cannot have superior science and inferior morals. The combination is unstable and self-destroying.
    • Voices from the Sky : Previews of the Coming Space Age (1967)
  • Behind every man now alive stand 30 ghosts, for that is the ratio by which the dead outnumber the living.
    • 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) "Foreword"
  • One of the biggest roles of science fiction is to prepare people to accept the future without pain and to encourage a flexibility of mind. Politicians should read science fiction, not westerns and detective stories. Two-thirds of 2001 is realistic — hardware and technology — to establish background for the metaphysical, philosophical, and religious meanings later.
    • As quoted in The Making of Kubrick's 2001 (1970) by Jerome Agel, p. 300
  • Perhaps our role on this planet is not to worship God — but to create Him.
    • "The Mind of the Machine" in Report on Planet Three and Other Speculations (1972)
  • This is the first age that's ever paid much attention to the future, which is a little ironic since we may not have one.
    • As quoted in The Peter Plan : A Proposal for Survival (1976) by Laurence J. Peter
  • All these worlds are yours, except Europa. Attempt no landings there.
    • 2010: Odyssey Two (1982)
  • I wanted to kill myself. I would have done it, too, if I had owned a gun. I was considering the gruesome alternatives — pills, slitting my wrists with a razor blade, jumping off a bridge — when another student called to ask me a detailed question on relativity. There was no way, after fifteen minutes of thinking about Mr. Einstein, that suicide was still a viable option. Divorce, certainly. Celibacy, highly likely. But death was out of the question. I could never have prematurely terminated my love affair with physics.
    • "Richard Wakefield" in Rama II (1989)
  • Any teacher that can be replaced by a machine should be!
    • Electronic Tutors (1980)
  • I would defend the liberty of consenting adult creationists to practice whatever intellectual perversions they like in the privacy of their own homes; but it is also necessary to protect the young and innocent.
    • 1984: Spring (1984)
  • Reading computer manuals without the hardware is as frustrating as reading sex manuals without the software.
    • The Odyssey File (1984), also quoted in The Mammoth Book of Zingers, Quips, and One-Liners (2004) by Geoff Tibballs, p. 128
  • The fact that we have not yet found the slightest evidence for life — much less intelligence — beyond this Earth does not surprise or disappoint me in the least. Our technology must still be laughably primitive, we may be like jungle savages listening for the throbbing of tom-toms while the ether around them carries more words per second than they could utter in a lifetime.
    • "Credo" (1991); also in Greetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds! : Collected Essays, 1934-1998 (1999), p. 360
The greatest tragedy in mankind's entire history may be the hijacking of morality by religion.
  • The greatest tragedy in mankind's entire history may be the hijacking of morality by religion.
    • "Credo" (1991); also in Greetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds! : Collected Essays, 1934-1998 (1999), p. 360
  • CNN is one of the participants in the war. I have a fantasy where Ted Turner is elected president but refuses because he doesn't want to give up power.
    • Quoted in And I Quote: The Definitive Collection of Quotes, Sayings, and Jokes for the Contemporary Speechmaker (1992) by Ashton Applewhite, Tripp Evans and Andrew Frothingham, p. 279
  • The dinosaurs disappeared because they could not adapt to their changing environment. We shall disappear if we cannot adapt to an environment that now contains spaceships, computers — and thermonuclear weapons.
    • Forword to The Collected Stories (June 2000)
  • Finally, I would like to assure my many Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, and Muslim friends that I am sincerely happy that the religion which Chance has given you has contributed to your peace of mind (and often, as Western medical science now reluctantly admits, to your physical well-being). Perhaps it is better to be un-sane and happy, than sane and un-happy. But it is the best of all to be sane and happy. Whether our descendants can achieve that goal will be the greatest challenge of the future. Indeed, it may well decide whether we have any future.
    • 3001: The Final Odyssey (1997)
  • There is the possibility that humankind can outgrown its infantile tendencies, as I suggested in Childhood's End. But it is amazing how childishly gullible humans are. There are, for example, so many different religions — each of them claiming to have the truth, each saying that their truths are clearly superior to the truths of others — how can someone possibly take any of them seriously? I mean, that's insane. ...Though I sometimes call myself a crypto-Buddhist, Buddhism is not a religion. Of those around at the moment, Islam is the only one that has any appeal to me. But, of course, Islam has been tainted by other influences. The Muslims are behaving like Christians, I'm afraid.
I want to see lasting and meaningful peace achieved in Sri Lanka as early as possible. But I am aware that peace cannot just be wished; it involves hard work, courage and persistence.
  • Two possibilities exist: Either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.
    • As quoted in Visions : How Science Will Revolutionize the Twenty-First Century (1999) by Michio Kaku, p. 295
  • It has yet to be proven that intelligence has any survival value.
    • As quoted in Duh! : The Stupid History of the Human Race (2000) by Bob Fenster, p. 208
  • The intelligent minority of this world will mark 1 January 2001 as the real beginning of the 21st century and the Third Millennium.
It is vital to remember that information — in the sense of raw data — is not knowledge, that knowledge is not wisdom, and that wisdom is not foresight. But information is the first essential step to all of these.
  • We should be less concerned about adding years to life, and more about adding life to years. I have been very fortunate to have witnessed some of humanity's greatest achievements during the 20th century that is nearing its end. Yet we must admit that it has also been the most savage century in the history of our kind. If I can have one more wish, I want to see lasting and meaningful peace achieved in Sri Lanka as early as possible. But I am aware that peace cannot just be wished; it involves hard work, courage and persistence.
    As we welcome 2001, let us harness our collective energies to create a culture of peace and a land of prosperity.
    • As quoted in the [Sri Lanka] Sunday Times (31 December 2000)
  • I've been saying for a long time that I'm hoping to find intelligent life in Washington ... I'm reasonably sure there must be life in this solar system, on Mars or on Europa, and other places. I think life is probably going to be ubiquitous, though we still don't have any proof of that yet — and still less, any proof of intelligent life anywhere. But I hope that will be coming in the next decade or so through radio astronomy or, perhaps, the discovery of objects in space which are obviously artificial. Astronomical engineering — that may be the other thing to look for.
  • I don't pretend we have all the answers. But the questions are certainly worth thinking about..
    • As quoted in An Enchanted Life : An Adept's Guide to Masterful Magick (2001) by Patricia Telesco, p. 135
  • There is hopeful symbolism in the fact that flags do not wave in a vacuum.
    • As quoted in Values of the Wise : Humanity's Highest Aspirations (2004) by Jason Merchey, p. 31
  • The best measure of a man's honesty isn't his income tax return. It's the zero adjust on his bathroom scale.
    • As quoted in The Mammoth Book of Zingers, Quips, and One-Liners (2004) by Geoff Tibballs, p. 264
  • SETI is probably the most important quest of our time, and it amazes me that governments and corporations are not supporting it sufficiently.
  • I don't believe in God but I'm very interested in her.
    • As quoted in Multiple Intelligences in Practice : Enhancing Self-esteem and Learning in the Classroom (2006) by Mike Fleetham, Section 2 : Using MI

Clarke's Laws

When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
  • Clarke's First Law: When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
    • "Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination" in Profiles of the Future (1962)
    • Perhaps the adjective "elderly" requires definition. In physics, mathematics, and astronautics it means over thirty; in the other disciplines, senile decay is sometimes postponed to the forties. There are, of course, glorious exceptions; but as every researcher just out of college knows, scientists of over fifty are good for nothing but board meetings, and should at all costs be kept out of the laboratory!
      • "Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination" in Profiles of the Future (1962; as revised in 1973)
  • Clarke's Second Law: The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
    • "Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination" in Profiles of the Future (1962)
  • Clarke's Third Law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
    • Profiles of the Future (revised edition, 1973)
  • Clarke's Law of Revolutionary Ideas: Every revolutionary idea — in science, politics, art, or whatever — seems to evoke three stages of reaction. They may be summed up by the phrases:

    (1) "It's completely impossible — don't waste my time";
    (2) "It's possible, but it's not worth doing";
    (3) "I said it was a good idea all along."

All truth passes through three stages.
First it is ridiculed.
Second it is violently opposed.
And third it is accepted as self-evident.
  • As quoted in Seeds of Peace : A Catalogue of Quotations (1986) by Jeanne Larson, Madge Micheels-Cyrus, p. 244

We'll Never Conquer Space (1960)

We have abolished space here on the little Earth; we can never abolish the space that yawns between the stars.
Essay, published in Science Digest (June 1960); later published in Profiles of the Future : An Inquiry Into the Limits of the Possible (1962), Voices from the Sky (1965), and Greetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds! : Collected Essays, 1934-1998 (1999)
  • Our age is in many ways unique, full of events and phenomena that never occurred before and can never happen again. They distort our thinking, making us believe that what is true now will be true forever, though perhaps on a larger scale. Because we have annihilated distance on this planet, we imagine that we can do it once again. The facts are otherwise, and we see them more clearly if we forget the present and turn our minds towards the past.
  • When the pioneers and adventurers of our past left their homes in search of new lands, they said good-bye forever to the place of their birth and the companions of their youth. Only a lifetime ago, parents waved farewell to their emigrating children in the virtual certainty that they would never meet again.
    And now, within one incredible generation, all this has changed.
  • We have abolished space here on the little Earth; we can never abolish the space that yawns between the stars. Once again, as in the days when Homer sang, we are face-to-face with immensity and must accept its grandeur and terror, its inspiring possibilities and its dreadful restraints.
  • To obtain a mental picture of the distance to the nearest star, compared to the nearest planet, you must imagine a world in which the closest object to you is only five feet away — and there is nothing else to see until you have travelled a thousand miles.
  • Space can be mapped and crossed and occupied without definable limit; but it can never be conquered. When our race has reached its ultimate achievements, and the stars themselves are scattered no more widely than the seed of Adam, even then we shall still be like ants crawling on the face of the Earth. The ants have covered the world, but have they conquered it — for what do their countless colonies know of it, or of each other?
    So it will be with us as we spread out from Earth, loosening the bonds of kinship and understanding, hearing faint and belated rumors at second — or third — or thousandth hand of an ever dwindling fraction of the entire human race. Though the Earth will try to keep in touch with her children, in the end all the efforts of her archivists and historians will be defeated by time and distance, and the sheer bulk of material. For the numbers of distinct human societies or nations, when our race is twice its present age, may be far greater than the total number of all the men who have ever lived up to the present time.
    We have left the realm of comprehension in our vain effort to grasp the scale of the universe; so it must ever be, sooner rather than later.
  • When you are next out of doors on a summer night, turn your head towards the zenith. Almost vertically above you will be shining the brightest star of the northern skies — Vega of the Lyre, twenty-six years away at the speed of light, near enough to the point of no return for us short-lived creatures. Past this blue-white beacon, fifty times as brilliant as our sun, we may send our minds and bodies, but never our hearts.
    For no man will ever turn homewards beyond Vega, to greet again those he knew and loved on Earth.

Space and the Spirit of Man (1965)

We cannot predict the new forces, powers, and discoveries that will be disclosed to us when we reach the other planets and set up new laboratories in space. They are as much beyond our vision today as fire or electricity would be beyond the imagination of a fish.
  • We seldom stop to think that we are still creatures of the sea, able to leave it only because, from birth to death, we wear the water-filled space suits of our skins.
  • We cannot predict the new forces, powers, and discoveries that will be disclosed to us when we reach the other planets and set up new laboratories in space. They are as much beyond our vision today as fire or electricity would be beyond the imagination of a fish.
  • The rash assertion that 'God made man in His own image' is ticking like a time bomb at the foundation of many faiths, and as the hierarchy of the universe is disclosed to us, we may have to recognize this chilling truth: if there are any gods whose chief concern is man, they cannot be very important gods.

90th Birthday Reflections (2007)

Full text online - Sir Arthur C Clarke: 90th Birthday Reflections at YouTube
I now spend a good part of my day dreaming of times past, present and future...
I want to be remembered most as a writer — one who entertained readers, and, hopefully, stretched their imagination as well.
  • As I approach my 90th birthday, my friends are asking how it feels like, to have completed 90 orbits around the Sun. Well, I actually don't feel a day older than 89!
  • I now spend a good part of my day dreaming of times past, present and future. As I try to survive on 15 hours sleep a day, I have plenty of time to enjoy vivid dreams. Being completely wheel-chaired doesn't stop my mind from roaming the universe — on the contrary!
  • In my time I’ve been very fortunate to see many of my dreams come true! Growing up in the 1920s and 1930s, I never expected to see so much happen in the span of a few decades. We "space cadets" of the British Interplanetary Society spent all our spare time discussing space travel — but we didn’t imagine that it lay in our own near future… I still can't quite believe that we've just marked the 50th anniversary of the Space Age! We’ve accomplished a great deal in that time, but the "Golden Age of Space" is only just beginning. Over the next 50 years, thousands of people will travel to Earth orbit — and then, to the Moon and beyond. Space travel — and space tourism — will one day become almost as commonplace as flying to exotic destinations on our own planet.
  • Communication technologies are necessary, but not sufficient, for us humans to get along with each other. This is why we still have many disputes and conflicts in the world. Technology tools help us to gather and disseminate information, but we also need qualities like tolerance and compassion to achieve greater understanding between peoples and nations.
    I have great faith in optimism as a guiding principle, if only because it offers us the opportunity of creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. So I hope we've learnt something from the most barbaric century in history — the 20th. I would like to see us overcome our tribal divisions and begin to think and act as if we were one family. That would be real globalisation…
  • If I may be allowed just three wishes, they would be these.
    Firstly, I would like to see some evidence of extra-terrestrial life. I have always believed that we are not alone in the universe. But we are still waiting for ETs to call us — or give us some kind of a sign. We have no way of guessing when this might happen — I hope sooner rather than later!
    Secondly, I would like to see us kick our current addiction to oil, and adopt clean energy sources. ... Climate change has now added a new sense of urgency. Our civilisation depends on energy, but we can't allow oil and coal to slowly bake our planet…
    The third wish is one closer to home. I’ve been living in Sri Lanka for 50 years — and half that time, I’ve been a sad witness to the bitter conflict that divides my adopted country.
    I dearly wish to see lasting peace established in Sri Lanka as soon as possible.
  • I'm sometimes asked how I would like to be remembered. I've had a diverse career as a writer, underwater explorer, space promoter and science populariser. Of all these, I want to be remembered most as a writer — one who entertained readers, and, hopefully, stretched their imagination as well.


  • I don't believe in astrology; I'm a Sagittarian and we're sceptical.
  • My favourite definition of "Intellectual" is: "Someone who has been educated beyond his/her intelligence."
    • Clarke here quotes a definition he does not claim to have originated. He stated this in the Sources and Acknowledgements chapter of 3001: The Final Odyssey, when he's discussing book chapter 19.
  • The intelligence of the planet is constant, and the population is growing.
  • We should always be prepared for future technologies, because otherwise they will come along and clobber us.
  • on UFOs: "They tell us absolutely nothing about intelligence elsewhere in the universe, but they do prove how rare it is on Earth."


  • Our lifetime may be the last that will be lived out in a technological society.
    • Attributed to Clarke on the internet, this has also been attributed to Isaac Asimov in published works.

Quotes about Clarke

  • One of the English science-fiction writers once said, "Sometimes I think we're alone in the universe, and sometimes I think we're not. In either case the idea is quite staggering." ... I must say I agree with him.
    • Stanley Kubrick, quoting a writer, who is usually assumed to be Clarke, as quoted in a 1966 interview with Jeremy Bernstein; later published in Stanley Kubrick : Interviews edited by Gene D. Phillips, p. 35, This has sometimes been quoted in published works as if it were a direct quote of Clarke, and is similar to one quoted above: "Two possibilities exist: Either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying." .
  • In "Credo," an essay published in 1991, Clarke lays out a belief system by distinguishing between two views of God: Alpha, who "rewards good and evil in some vaguely described afterlife," and Omega, "Creator of Everything ... a much more interesting character and not so easily dismissed." Clarke writes, "No intelligent person can contemplate the night sky without a sense of awe. The mind-boggling vista of exploding supernovae and hurtling galaxies does seem to require a certain amount of explaining."

Commentary on — or derivatives of — Clarke's Laws

Any technology distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced.

First Law

  • When, however, the lay public rallies round an idea that is denounced by distinguished but elderly scientists and supports that idea with great fervor and emotion — the distinguished but elderly scientists are then, after all, probably right.
    • Isaac Asimov, in Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (c. 1977)
  • When an official declares something false, chances are that it is. When he or she says it is absolutely false, chances are it is true. ... The overemphasis sticks out like Pinocchio's nose.
    • Jack Rosenthal, "On Language: Frame of Mind" in The New York Times Magazine (21 September 1994)

Third Law

  • Clarke's Third Law doesn't work in reverse. Given that "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic," it does not follow that "any magical claim that anybody may make at any time is indistinguishable from a technological advance that will come some time in the future." ... There have admittedly been occasions when authoritative, pontificating skeptics have come away with egg on their faces, even within their own lifetimes. But there have been a far greater number of occasions when magical claims have never been vindicated. An apparent magical claim might eventually turn out to be true. In any age there are so many magical claims that are, or could be, made. They can't all be true; many are mutually contradictory; and we have no reason to suppose that, simply by the act of sitting down and dreaming up a magical claim, we shall make it come true in some future technology. Some things that would surprise us today will come true in the future. But lots and lots of things that would surprise us today will not come true ever.
    • Richard Dawkins, in "Putting Away Childish Things" in The Skeptical Inquirer (Jan-Feb/95)
  • Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from doubletalk.
    • George Alec Effinger, SF-LIT mailing list (10/11/95)
Any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology.
  • Any technology distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced.
    • Gehm's Corollary to Clarke's Third Law (unsourced)
  • Any sufficiently retarded magic is indistinguishable from technology.
    • Gehm's Other Corollary to Clarke's Third Law (unsourced)
  • Any sufficiently advanced bug is indistinguishable from a feature.
    • Kulawiec (unsourced)
  • Any sufficiently advanced chaos is indistinguishable from Usenet.
    • Andrew Hackard, on rec.arts.sf.written (6/10/95)
  • Any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology.
  • When technology becomes sufficiently obsolete, it becomes an Art Form.

External links

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Simple English

Sir Arthur C. Clarke at his home in 2005

Sir Arthur Charles Clarke (born December 16, 1917; died Colombo 19 March, 2008) was a British author and inventor, most famous for his science fiction novel 2001: A Space Odyssey, and for working with director Stanley Kubrick on the film of the same name. Clarke is considered one of the Big Three of science fiction, along with Robert A. Heinlein and Isaac Asimov.

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