Arthur C. Clarke, 1917 - 2008

Arthur C. Clarke, 1917 - 2008

Arthur C. Clarke, 1917 - 2008

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
March 18 2008 4:21 PM

Arthur C. Clarke, 1917 - 2008

I am incredibly saddened to hear that Arthur C. Clarke has died. He had been ill for sometime, and finally succumbed earlier today.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

It is no exaggeration at all to say we owe the world to Clarke. He is most famous for having written the book and movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, of course. But he also was the first person to conceive of a geostationary orbit; one in which a satellite orbits the Earth once every 24 hours, giving it a view that always shows the same face of the Earth. This is (mostly) where we put weather and communication satellites today.

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His science fiction and fact books inspired a generation of rocket scientists, engineers, astronomers, and more. His fiction in the 1950s is a blueprint for how to explore space, and had the US government listened I might have been writing these words from my cabin on a lunar base.

I personally had some tangential contact with him. We sent him a copy of my first book to get a blurb from him; he sent one back too late to use on the book, but I have the letter still and I treasure it. I also met a good friend of ACC's, Fred Durant, at James Randi's first Amazing Meeting. We chatted for a while, and he asked me if I had ever read Clarke's The Coming of the Space Age. I said sure, back in high school. He asked if I'd like a copy, and I again said sure! He then got a little wistful, and said that he bought the last remaining first edition hardcovers years back, and Clarke was ticked because he had wanted them. Then Fred smiled, and said Clarke was even more ticked when Fred made him sign all the copies.

It took a moment for me to realize that Fred was offering to send me a signed, first-edition hardcover of Clarke's book. I couldn't believe it.

That book sits on my shelf, not one meter to my left. It's one of my most prized possessions.

Clarke inspired me when I was in high school. His stories of lunar colonization were (and still are) wonderful reading, cleverly plotted and well-written. I'm very sad he's gone, but I am so very very happy he was alive. His name will be remembered as long as we ply the lanes of space.