Sir Arthur on the set of 2001: A Space Odyssey, 1965.

Sir Arthur C. Clarke was a prolific British science fiction writer, with a long list of other appelations: he was a futurist, an RAF veteran, an undersea explorer, a scuba diver, educator, and science populizer. Arthur Charles Clarke was born December 16, 1917, so today, on what would have been his one hundred and fourth birthday, we pause to take a momento remember Sir Arthur. and his contributions to both science fiction and the advancement of science itself.

Arthur C. Clarke stands out as being one of the most important visionary minds of our century or the last. His open and approachable writing style made scientific concepts accessible to the masses, in a way that few before him had accomplished. His ideas about the future of mankind and its technology have had far reaching ramifications that reach like a spider’s web into almost every aspect of modern human existence. It is impossible to overstate the profound influence Clarke has had on us as a species and the way we think about the future.

In 1986 the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) named Arthur C. Clarke a grand master. Along with Robert A. Heinlein and Dr. Isaac Asimov, he was considered one of the Big Three of Modern Science Fiction.

Arthur C. Clarke was a lifelong advocate of space exploration. He joined the british Interplanetary Society while still a teenager, and was eventually elected chairman of the BIS. He served two terms as chairman of the BIS, from 1946-1947 and again from in 1951-1953.

Geosynchronous Orbit

Contrary to popular belief, Arthur C. Clarke did not invent the notion of geosynchrous orbits. However, as early as 1945 he suggested that satellites in geosynchroous orbit would be invaluable as communications relays. In addition to a paper circulated privately among members of the British Interplanetary Society, he suggested the concept in several of his science fiction novels. It is, of course, now widely used by real modern telecommunications systems.

Clarke’s Three Laws

  1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
  2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
  3. Any sufficiently advanced technology  is indistinguishable from magic.

The Undersea Life of Arthur C. Clarke

Sir Arthur moved to Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) in 1956 because of the coral reefs and the clear water for scuba diving. In the waters off Sri Lanka, he discovered the underwater ruins of the Hundu temple of Koneswaram, sacred to the god Shiva. Clarke wrote The Reefs of Taprobane about this discovery. Sir Arthur started a diving school and a dive shop. He alai wrote The Coast of Coral about what he saw when he dove. As a scuba diver and a scientist, he was a strong advocate for ecology and keeping the oceans safe and clean. His ecological interests extended to gorilla preservation, and he was a significant member of the Gorilla Society.

For many years Sir Arthur served as vice-patron of the British Polio Fellowship, having contracted polio in 1952. He was diagnosed with post-polio syndrome in 1988, and spent his later years in a wheelchair.

Awards and Honors

Arthur C Clarke at home in Sri Lanka, circa 1983

Arthur C. Clarke, CBE, FRAS collected honors and awards the way children collect Halloween candy. He was a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. He was elected the chairman of the British Interplanetary Society twice. Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II dubbed him a knight in 2000 for his services to literature. Like Sir Arthur, Queen Elizabeth was a WWII veteran, she in the Auxiliary Territorial Service, he in the Royal Air Force.

In 1989, Sir Arthur was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire for his services to British cultural interests in Sri Lanka  In 1961, he received the KALINGA Prize, a UNESCO award for popularizing science.

He won the Nebula Award in 1974 for his novel Rondezvous with Rama and again in 1980 fo the novel Fountains of Paradise. In 1955 he won the Hugo Award for his heartbreaking story, “The Star.” In 1969 he was nominated for an Oscar for co-writing the script for 2001: A Space Odyssey. Director/producer Stanley Kubrick was his co-writer and shared the Oscar nomination.

His science fiction included: Rendezvous with Rama, The Sands of Mars, Islands in the Sky. Against the Fall of Night, Songs of Distant Earth, and many other works. His nonfiction included The Reefs of Taprobane , Greetings, Carbon Based Bipeds, Profiles of the Future: An Inquiry into the Limits of the Possible,The Exploration of Space, The Promise of Space, and multiple essays.

Sir Arthur C. Clarke was also a television host. He hosted three television shows: Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World (1980), Arthur C. Clarke’s World of Strange Power] (1985), and Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious Universe (1994). The shows were popular in the U.K, and were similar to the American series In Search Of…, hosted by Leonard Nimoy.

Sir Arthur Charles Clarke passed away on March 19, 2008 in Colombo, Sri Lanka, at the age of 90. He is buried in Colombo.

In a very real sense, though, Clarke will never truly be gone, so long as we continue on the path he foresaw and helped build.


Susan Macdonald
Susan Macdonald

Susan Macdonald is the author of the children’s book “R is for Renaissance Faire”, as well as 26 short stories, mostly fantasy in “Alternative Truths”, “Swords and Sorceress #30”, Swords &Sorceries Vols. 1, 2, & 5, “Cat Tails” “Under Western Stars”, and “Knee-High Drummond and the Durango Kid”. Her articles have appeared on’s web site, in The Inquisitr, and in The Millington Star. She enjoys Renaissance Faires (see book above), science fiction conventions,  Highland Games, and Native American pow-wows.