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Isaac Asimov

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Isaac asimov

A picture of Isaac Asimov as he is most recognized

Dr. Isaac Asimov(January 2, 1920 – April 6, 1992) was a Russian-born American Jewish author and biochemist, a highly successful and exceptionally prolific writer best known for his works of science fiction and for his many non-fiction books. He wrote on numerous topics spanning many genres, including; science, the Bible, literature (including a guide to Shakespeare), and history. He also wrote mysteries and fantasy tales.

Asimov was by general consensus a master of the science-fiction genre and, along with Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke, was considered to be one of the "Big Three" science-fiction writers during his lifetime. His most famous novels are those based in the Foundation Universe including the Robot, Empire, and Foundation series. His science-fiction was based on extrapolation of the current science and predictions of directions of science.

Isaac Asimov was one of the most prolific authors who ever lived. He wrote or edited over five hundred books and it is estimated that he wrote nine thousand letters and postcards during his lifetime. Asimov's published works have been cataloged in nine of the ten major categories of the Dewey Decimal System (all except the 100s, Philosophy).

Asimov won many awards for his writing, including seven Hugo Awards and a special lifetime Nebula Grandmaster award. He has a magazine and three awards named in his honor as well as an elementary school in Brooklyn, New York, a Martian crater, and an asteroid, 5020 Asimov. He was inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 1997.

Biography

Isaac Asimov was born Isaak Yudovick Ozimov in Petrovichi, Russia, in 1920. His family emigrated to the United States in 1923 and settled in Brooklyn, New York. Asimov graduated from Columbia University in 1939 and earned a masters degree in chemistry there in 1941. In 1942, he married Gertrude Blugerman with whom he would have two children. He spent three years during World War II working as a junior chemist at the Philadelphia Navy Yard's Naval Air Experimental Station. After the war, he was drafted into the U.S. Army, serving for just under nine months before receiving an honorable discharge. He then returned to Columbia and earned his Ph. D. in 1948. From 1949 to 1958, he taught biochemistry at the Boston University School of Medicine.

Asimov began submitting short stories to science fiction magazines in his late teens. Although Astounding Science Fiction rejected his early stories, John W. Campbell, the editor, encouraged him to keep trying. Asimov sold "Marooned off Vesta" to Amazing Stories in 1938, and went on to publish numerous science fiction stories in Amazing, Astounding, and other magazines throughout the 1940s and into the late 1950s. One of the short stories published in Astounding, "Nightfall" (1941), has been described as one of "the most famous science-fiction stories of all time".

Asimov's first novel Pebble in the Sky was published by Doubleday in 1950. More novels and anthologies soon followed. Many of his best-known science-fiction works were published in the 1950s, including I, Robot (1950), a collection of short stories featuring "positronic" robots and the Three Laws of Robotics, and the Foundation trilogy (1951-1953) which introduced the fictional science of "psychohistory." Other works from this period include the famous (and Asimov's favorite) short story "The Last Question" (1956) and the Lucky Starr series of young-adult novels which he wrote under the pseudonym of Paul French.

Nebula

After he gave up teaching in 1958 to write full time, Asimov shifted his focus to non-fiction. He published numerous books on various scientific topics spanning many fields. He also wrote a popular-science column regularly for the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, for which he won a special Hugo Award in 1963. In addition, he wrote books on history, the Bible, and literature throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Although he did not produce much fiction during this period, he still wrote some mysteries and science fiction, including two award-winning stories; The Gods Themselves (Hugo and Nebula Awards for best novel, 1973) and "The Bicentennial Man" (Hugo and Nebula Awards for best novelette, 1977). He also helped found Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine in 1977.

Asimov continued writing non-ficion in the 1980s, but he also returned to science fiction. Beginning with Foundation's Edge (1982), he published a new set of Foundation novels which connected together the previously disjointed universes and histories of his Robot, Empire, and Foundation series. He also edited many science-fiction anthologies and co-authored with Janet Jeppson, his second wife, a children's series starring Norby the robot. He was presented with the special Grandmaster Award at the 1987 SFWA Nebula Awards banquet for his lifetime achievement in science fiction.

Asimov kept writing all the way till his death in 1992 from heart and kidney failure.

Personality

Although Jewish born, he was not a practitioner. He was a rationalist and had an skeptic world view that is reflected in his science articles. From 1985 until his death in 1992, he was president of the American Humanist Association. He was against the law to revive Creationism in schools in Reagan era. He was claustrophile, he liked small spaces. He was also afraid of flying and did not think it was contradictory with his characters flying spaceships. That was his characters not him and it was fiction, according to some of his answers to this question.

Selected works

Novels

Short story collections

Popular science

History

Guides

Authors inspired by Isaac Asimov

Besides movies, his Foundation and Robot stories have inspired other derivative works of science fiction literature, many by well-known and established authors such as Roger MacBride Allen, Greg Bear, Gregory Benford and David Brin. These appear to have been done with the blessing, and often at the request of, Asimov's widow Janet Asimov.

Book themes

Psychohistory

It is a fictional science created in the Foundation series. It was invented by Hari Seldon, a scientist. It is a science of future behavior of large masses of people. People can be treated like the molecules of a gas: they are millions but the gas itself (humanity) can be treated as a unit. This science worked over several million people (the human population of the galaxy in the times of the Foundation) and predicted the behavior of humanity as a whole.

Seldon predicted the fall of the Galactic Empire who was governing the galaxy at that time. He predicted there would be 25000 years of darkness, but he could shrink it to 1000 if some minor changes could be performed. For that, he created a "Foundation" of encyclopedists in a far planet. The Encyclopedia was a trick to fool the Emperor. The real plans of the Foundation were to advance scientifically and to get and create weapons so they would become invincible. This Foundation would later attack the Empire, emerging as the conquerors and would try to revive the lost empire. He created also a "Second Foundation" which would have mental powers. The first Foundation would know nothing about the second, for his plans to be accomplished successfully. He then located the Second Foundation on "the opposite side of the galaxy" with respect to the former.

Nevertheless, Seldon could never predict the destiny of individuals with his science. So he could not predict the rise of a new human being, a mutant called "The Mule" who had mental powers and could manipulate the emotions of others.

That is the universe of the Foundation series, or Trantor universe as it is called, honouring the name of the planet where the Foundation is. Asimov himself confessed that this Galactic Empire was inspired by the historical Roman Empire. So, the thousand of years of darkness was the era called The Dark Ages. There are some characters directly inspirated by the Roman Empire, like the General Bel Riose who is thought to be inspired by Flavius Belisarius, the last great general of the Roman Empire during the 6th century AD.

Robots

Another common theme on his writings was robots. They were humanoid robots like R. Daneel Olivaw who acted like a person, except for feelings. They were pictured like soft, nice and servants of humanity. They could not harm people, like they do in other science fiction writings or movies. There was another character, besides R. Daneel Olivaw: R. Giskard, which had mental powers. Susan Calvin was a robotist who appears on many robot stories. And Elijah Bailey was a detective who solved mysteries with the help of R. Daneel. In scientific writings he also imagined that they could replace humanity.

Computers

There was a very advanced computer: Multivac, which means Multiple Vacuum Analog Computer. It was huge and has tremendous processing power. It was used in several experiments and short stories.

He predicted many inventions, like the personal computer. He went beyond that and on the story What If he describes a TV-like screen with data, much like today's laptop computers. He wrote about miniaturization on The Last Question on the time of vacuum valve computers.

The Three Laws of Robotics

In most of his stories about robots, the robots are suppoused to follow these laws. Usually the plots are based on dilemmas arisen by the clash of two of the laws or the different possible interpretations of them. Many of these stories are collected in I, Robot. Like most of his short stories he published them during the 40s and 50s (the Golden Age mentioned above) in pulp magazines.

The laws:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

External links

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