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March 19, 2008

Science Fiction Giant Arthur C. Clarke Dies

Sir Arthur C. Clarke wrote what may be the greatest science fiction book of all time, 2001: A Space Odyssey. But the prolific author and scientist published much more than that one work, and worked to promote scientific understanding and advancement during his many decades of work.

Sir Arthur C. Clarke, the science fiction writer, has died aged 90 in his adopted home of Sri Lanka, it was confirmed tonight.

Clarke, who had battled debilitating post-polio syndrome since the 1960s and sometimes used a wheelchair, died at 1:30am after suffering breathing problems, his personal secretary Rohan De Silva said.

“Sir Arthur passed away a short while ago at the Apollo Hospital [in Colombo]. He had a cardio-respiratory attack,” he said.

* * *

The visionary author of more than 70 books, who was nominated for a Nobel Prize after predicting the existence of satellites, was most famous for his short story "The Sentinel", which was expanded into the novel that was later adapted for Stanley Kubrick's film "2001: A Space Odyssey".

He was also credited with inventing the concept of communications satellites in 1945, decades before they became a reality.

Clarke was the last surviving member of what was sometimes known as the "Big Three" of science fiction, alongside Robert A. Heinlein and Isaac Asimov.

The astronomer Sir Patrick Moore said that his friend was a “great visionary, brilliant science-fiction writer and great forecaster”.

“He said there would be a man on the Moon by 1970, while I said 1980 — and he was right,” he said.

“He was ahead of his time in so many ways. I’m very, very sad that he’s gone."

What is amazing to consider is that Clarke was working int he field of space science long before there was an actual space program, and that he was considered enough of a scientific expert to be brought on as a commentator by CBS News during its coverage of the Apollo program so many years ago.

And with the passing of Arthur C. Clarke comes the closing of an era in science fiction. He was the last of the giants of that era, the last of the authors who made the genre respectable and lifted it above the realm of pulp fiction. To class him with Asimov and Heinlein is quite appropriate, for the trio have the distinction of having written so many great works that still hold up to scrutiny decades after their publication.

Farewell, Sir Arthur C. Clarke -- and thanks for the many hours of pleasure your works brought to my life and the lives of so many others.





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