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Hugo Gernsback watching a television broadcast from his WRNY station as shown on the cover of the November 1928 issue of Radio News.

Hugo Gernsback (August 16, 1884 – August 19, 1967), born Hugo Gernsbacher, was a Luxembourg American inventor, writer and magazine publisher, best remembered for publications that included the first science fiction magazine. His contributions to the genre as publisher were so significant that, along with H.G. Wells and Jules Verne, he is sometimes popularly called "The Father of Science Fiction"[1]; in his honor, the annual Science Fiction Achievement awards are named the "Hugos."

Born in the Bonnevoie neighbourhood of Luxembourg City, Gernsback emigrated to the United States in 1905 and later became a naturalized citizen. He married three times: to Rose Harvey in 1906, Dorothy Kantrowitz in 1921, and Mary Hancher in 1951. In 1925, Hugo founded radio station WRNY and was involved in the first television broadcasts. He is also considered a pioneer in amateur radio.


Science fiction

Gernsback started the modern genre of science fiction by founding the first magazine dedicated to it, Amazing Stories, in 1926. He said he became interested in the concept after reading a translation of the work of Percival Lowell as a child. He also played a key role in starting science fiction fandom, by publishing the addresses of people who wrote letters to his magazines. So, the science fiction fans began to organize, and became aware of themselves as a movement, a social force; this was probably decisive for the subsequent history of the genre. He also created the term “science fiction”, though he preferred the term "scientifiction".

In 1929, he lost ownership of his first magazines after a bankruptcy lawsuit. There is some debate about whether this process was genuine, manipulated by publisher Bernarr Macfadden, or was a Gernsback scheme to begin another company. After losing control of Amazing Stories, Gernsback founded two new science fiction magazines, Science Wonder Stories and Air Wonder Stories. A year later, due to Depression-era financial troubles, the two were merged together into Wonder Stories, which Gernsback continued to publish until 1936, when it was sold to Thrilling Publications and renamed Thrilling Wonder Stories. Gernsback was noted for sharp (and sometimes shady) business practices,[2] and for paying his writers extremely low fees.[3] H. P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith referred to him as "Hugo the Rat."[4] Gernsback returned in 1952-53 with Science-Fiction Plus.

Gernsback wrote some fiction, including the novel Ralph 124C 41+ in 1911 (the title was a pun of the phrase "one to foresee for one"). Though hugely influential at the time, and filled with numerous science fiction ideas, the plot, characters, and writing strike most modern readers as shallow and old-fashioned. Gernsback combined his fiction and science into Everyday Science and Mechanics magazine, serving as the editor in the 1930s.

The Science Fiction Achievement awards, given to various works each year by vote of the members of the World Science Fiction Society, are named the "Hugos" after him. He was one of 1996's inaugural inductees into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame.

In 1960 he received a special Hugo Award as "The Father of Magazine Science Fiction."[5]

Before creating a literary genre, Gernsback was an entrepreneur in the electronics industry, importing radio parts from Europe to the United States and helping to popularize amateur "wireless." In April 1908 he founded Modern Electrics, the world's first magazine about electronics. Under its auspices, in January 1909, he founded the Wireless Association of America, which had 10,000 members within a year. In 1912, Gernsback said that he estimated 400,000 people in the U.S. were involved in amateur radio. In 1913, he founded a similar magazine, The Electrical Experimenter, which became Science and Invention in 1920. It was in these magazines that he began including scientific fiction stories alongside science journalism.

List of magazines

  • Air Wonder Stories
  • Amazing Detective Stories
  • Amazing Stories
  • Aviation Mechanics
  • Electrical Experimenter — 1913 to 1920; became Science and Invention
  • Everyday Mechanics — from 1929; changed to Everyday Science and Mechanics as of October 1931 issue
  • Everyday Science and Mechanics — see Science and Mechanics
  • The Experimenter — originally Practical Electrics, the first issue under this title was November 1924; merged into Science and Invention in 1926
  • Facts of Life
  • Flight
  • Fotocraft
  • French Humor — became Tidbits
  • Gadgets
  • High Seas Adventures
  • Know Yourself
  • Life Guide
  • Light
  • Luz
  • Milady
  • Modern Electrics — 1908 to 1914 (sold in 1913; new owners merged it with Electrician and Mechanic)
  • Moneymaking
  • Motor Camper & Tourist
  • New Ideas for Everybody
  • Pirate Stories
  • Popular Medicine
  • Practical Electrics — Dec. 1921 to Oct. 1924 — became The Experimenter
  • Radio Amateur News — July 1919 to July 1920 — dropped the word "amateur" and became just Radio News
  • Radio and Television
  • Radio-Craft — July 1929 to June 1948 — became Radio-Electronics
  • Radio Electronics — July 1948 to ?
  • Radio Electronics Weekly Business Letter
  • Radio Listeners Guide and Call Book [title varies]
  • Radio News — July 1919 (as Radio Amateur News) to July 1948
  • Radio Program Weekly
  • Radio Review
  • Science and Invention — formerly Electrical Experimenter; published August 1920 to August 1931
  • Science and Mechanics — originally Everyday Mechanics; changed to Everyday Science and Mechanics in 1931. "Everyday" dropped as March 1937 issue, and published as Science and Mechanics until 1976
  • Science Fiction Plus
  • Science Wonder Stories
  • Scientific Detective Monthly
  • Sexologia
  • Sexology
  • Short-Wave and Television
  • Short-Wave Craft — merged into Radio-Craft
  • Short-Wave Listener
  • Superworld Comics
  • Technocracy Review
  • Television
  • Television News
  • Tidbits, originally French Humor
  • Woman's Digest
  • Wonder Stories
  • Your Body
  • Your Dreams


Gernsback held 80 patents by the time of his death in New York City on August 19, 1967.

See also

Popular culture


  1. ^ Siegel, Mark Richard (1988). Hugo Gernsback, Father of Modern Science Fiction: With Essays on Frank Herbert and Bram Stoker. Borgo Pr. ISBN 0-89370-174-2.  . Others who are popularly called "The Father of Science Fiction" include H.G. Wells and Jules Verne.
  2. ^ Lovecraft: a Biography
  3. ^ Banks, Michael A. (1 October 2004). "Hugo Gernsback: The man who invented the future. Part 3. Merging science fiction into science fact.". Society for Amateur Scientists (Society for Amateur Scientists). Retrieved 2007-02-13.  
  4. ^ Lovecraft: a Biography, p. 298
  5. ^


External links



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