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In Honor of Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008)

Posted March 19, 2008 12:39 PM by Chris Leonard

I'm going to deviate a little from the usual Engineer's Book club model today to praise Arthur C. Clarke who passed away yesterday at the age of 90.

Sir Arthur C. Clarke was a prolific writer, best known for the classic science fiction series Space Odyssey (2001: A Space Odyssey, 2010: Odyssey Two, 2061: Odyssey Three and 3001: The Final Odyssey) and the Rama series (Rendezvous with Rama, Rama II, The Garden of Rama, and Rama Revealed). His works focused on science, space and technology providing the tools for man's improvement. However, he wasn't just a science fiction writer. Among his many non-fiction works stretching back to 1940s were conceptual works on space and ocean exploration. His paper "Extra-Terrestrial Relays — Can Rocket Stations Give Worldwide Radio Coverage?", published in Wireless World in October 1945, is viewed as one of the first works to conceptualize the use of geostationary satellites as telecommunications relays.

Through his 90 years, Clarke received many awards and accolades. He was nominated for a Nobel Prize in 1994, presented with the Sri Lankabhimanya (The Pride of Sri Lanka) in 2005, named a Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of of America in 1986, appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1989, and knighted in 2000.

For more information on the man, in his own words, check out his 1989 autobiography, Astounding Days: A Science Fictional Autobiography, about his early days as a pulp sci-fi writer and the melding of real science into fiction.

His final work, The Last Theorem, written in conjunction with Frederick Pohl is in the final stages of manuscript preparation and is scheduled to publish in November of this year.

For those not familiar with his works, I suggest 2001, Rendezvous With Rama, Childhood's End, the non-fiction work Glide Path, about his experiences as a radar station operator during World War II, and the Sentinel, as well as the short story collection, The Best of Arthur C. Clarke. For the lazy among you, check out the film version of 2001: A Space Odyssey, directed and co-written (screenplay) with Stanley Kubrick. Actually, it's a great film, so you should watch it even if you're not lazy.

I'll leave you with a link to a video of Clarke's final recorded words, wherein he ruminates on aging, space travel, technology, communication and compassion.

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Re: In Honor of Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008)

03/20/2008 5:49 PM

I would like to congratulate you on your blog honoring the great Arthur C Clarke. I have read many books by him and not all sci-fi.

My first experience of his work was the film A Space Odyssey which I saw back in my youth. Absolutely brilliant piece of insightful work if ever there was one. I can distinctly remember that when the film was finished and the title screen was rolling past, everybody just sat there watching and nobody moved. Even when the lights went slowly on, we just all sat there in total amazement still processing. That film has easily had the biggest impact on me out of all the films and or books I have seen or read.

I never knew that some telecommunications satellites in geo static orbits were his invention as he mentioned them first. I also did not know that they called their orbits Clarke orbits in his name to acknowledge his inspirational first mentioning of them in his sci-fi work some 10 years before they actually existed.

Truly amazing man and his loss will be felt by all that knew him or that read his books.

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Re: In Honor of Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008)

03/21/2008 8:49 AM

The geostationary satellite paper is what really got me. While he didn't invent them, he had the forethought to see how they could be used. And keep in mind that this was before Sputnik had even launched...

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Re: In Honor of Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008)

03/21/2008 10:53 AM

Only time will tell if his idea out of the Final Oddysey will also be done one day. I would live to go up in an elevator like that and be theoretically in space and only have a short hop to the space stations. That would be mind blowing don't you think?

I forgot how high these towers were supposed to be but it is impossible for the time being I think.

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Re: In Honor of Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008)

03/22/2008 5:03 PM

Article taken from Reuters news flash.

By Rob Taylor

COLOMBO (Reuters) - Visionary science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke was buried on Saturday in his adopted home of Sri Lanka, where the nation paused for an international "titan" it had adopted as its own.

British-born Clarke, best known for his work on the movie "2001: A Space Odyssey", died aged 90 of respiratory complications and heart failure, which doctors linked to the post-polio syndrome that for years kept him wheelchair-bound.

"We feel so privileged that you left your mark on us. Your footprint will never fade. If anything, it will only magnify what we do," Tamara Ekanayake, who grew up at Clarke's Colombo home and whose family he adopted, told mourners.

Close family and friends wept and threw yellow roses onto his body in a final gesture of respect as it lay on a white bed beneath curved elephant tusks to music from the Space Odyssey movie before burial at Colombo's main cemetery.

His brother Fred and sister Mary watched on as hundreds of monks, mourners and sci-fi pilgrims clasped hands in prayer for a man who preferred the hard fact of science to organised religion.

"I do not think we will see another like him for another million years," said teacher A.S.M Munawwar, who travelled from Sri Lanka's east clutching a signed copy of one of Clarke's books.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who this week called Clarke a "prophet", asked Sri Lankans to observe a minute's silence for the island's most distinguished foreigner as newspapers mourned the "final voyage of a titan".

Clarke left written instructions that his funeral be marked by "absolutely no religious rites of any kind". For his tombstone he asked for the words: "Here lies Arthur Clarke. He never grew up, but didn't stop growing".



Very simple but nice epitaph, may he rest in peace.

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