Notable alumni: Arthur C. Clarke

Arthur C. Clarke

Science fiction writer

Arthur C. Clarke (Mathematics and Physics, 1948) was one of the foremost science fiction authors of the 20th century.

Born in 1917, Arthur grew up on a farm in Somerset, England. As a boy he enjoyed stargazing, fossil collecting and reading pulp fiction magazines. He was a member of the Junior Astronomical Association and contributed articles on space travel to its journal Urania.

Arthur began his literary career writing for fanzines and science fiction magazines. He moved to London in 1936, where he worked as a pensions auditor for the Board of Education and shared a flat with fellow science fiction writers William F. Temple and Maurice K. Hanson.

Arthur served as a radar specialist in the RAF during the Second World War, before completing his degree at King’s. He moved to Sri Lanka in 1958, where he lived until his death in 2008. He had a life-long passion for science, innovation and space travel, writing about these topics in his many science fiction novels. He collaborated with director Stanley Kubrick on the 1968 film of his novel 2001: A Space Odyssey, which many people regard as one of the most influential films ever made.

Arthur also wrote a number of non-fiction books describing the technical details and societal implications of rocketry and space flight. He is thought to be the first to suggest geostationary satellites could be used as relay points for telecommunications. The Clarke orbit, 36,000km above the equator, is named in recognition of his contribution to the field.

In 1961 Arthur was awarded the UNESCO Kalinga Prize for popularising science. He was referred to as the ‘Prophet of the Space Age’ and was regarded as one of the ‘Big Three’ science fiction writers, along with Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov. He also helped to promote and popularise interest in space and science in the 1980s and 1990s when he hosted a number of TV series such as Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World.

His novels Rendezvous with Rama and The Fountains of Paradise both gained the Nebula Award and the Hugo Award, respectively the US and World’s most prestigious science fiction prizes.

Arthur established the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 1986 to recognise the best UK-published science fiction novel each year. He was knighted in 2000.

Did you know? A keen scuba diver, Arthur set up several diving-related ventures with his business partner Mike Wilson. Exploring off the coast of Sri Lanka, they found both a lost Hindu temple and the wreck of a 17th-century ship belonging to the Munghal Emperor Aurangzeb.