“The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ but ‘That’s funny…’” – Isaac Asimov
Isaac Asimov Biography
Isaac Asimov is an American author who is perhaps best known for his works in the science fiction genre, particularly relating to works about robots. However, he also dabbled in other genres, such as mystery and fantasy, in addition to writing a number of popular science books during the course of his role as professor of biochemistry at Boston University.
It is believed that he wrote and edited as many as 500 books during the course of his life and he is considered one of the “big three” science fiction writers of the era. He was also a prominent member of Mensa and served as the organisation’s president for a while.
The exact date of Asimov’s birth is unknown but it is believed to be sometime between 4th October 1919 and 2nd January 1920, though he personally celebrated his birthday on the 2nd January. He was born in Petrovichi, Russia to Anna Rachel Asimov and Judah Asimov. He came from a family of millers and had both a younger brother and sister.
When Asimov was just three years old his family emigrated to the United States and he ended up living in Brooklyn, New York. Interestingly, despite his Russian heritage Isaac never learned the language, in large part due to the fact that his parents never spoke it around him. He became a naturalised citizen at the age of eight.
It was around this period that Asimov began to develop an interest in science fiction, as he became fascinated with sci-fi pulp magazines. Interestingly he was originally forbidden from reading these “pulp” books as his father believed them not to be educational, however, the young Asimov managed to convince his father otherwise by pointing out that they had the word “science” in the title.
This interest started his path to becoming a writer and by age 11 Asimov was writing his own stories. By 19 he had become competent enough to sell some of these stories to sci-fi magazines, which in turn shaped much of his later career.
During this time Asimov also attended a number of public schools in New York, including Boys High School in Brooklyn. Following his graduation, he eventually moved on to study at college, originally in zoology. However, he changed his major after just a single semester as he objected to dissecting a cat as part of his lessons. He eventually moved on to study chemistry at Columbia University, despite the institution’s initial reluctance to accept him, before completing his Ph.D. in Biochemistry in 1948. He eventually went on to work on the board of the university.
Asimov had been seeing a woman named Gertrude Blugerman and they would eventually marry in 1942, moving to another area of Boston a year after Asimov achieved his PhD. The marriage bore two children, David and Robyn Joan, however, the couple split in 1970. Following the official divorce in 1973, Asimov began seeing Janet O. Jeppson, whom he married only two weeks later.
Asimov’s early career began with the writing of science fiction short stories, as mentioned previously but he eventually graduated to writing full novels in 1950, with his career in that particular area being both short and prolific, essentially ending in 1958 following the publication of The Naked Sun.
During this period Asimov also became increasingly involved in writing non-fiction works, specifically in the areas of biochemistry and popular science. His output of popular science books began to rapidly increase as the space race between the USA and USSR began to heat up, practically eclipsing his science fiction work until it became his primary focus. This focus remained until the early 1980s when Asimov would once again shift his attention back towards the genre that he had loved since he was a child.
The publication of Foundation’s Edge in 1982 marked Asimov’s return to the genre and he became extremely prolific again, right up until his death. Through the course of his work Asimov is credited with contributing a number of words to the English language, including ‘positronic’ and ‘robotics’. He also devised the “Three Laws of Robotics” which governed the creation of robots within his works and are still referenced today in the real field of robotics.
Asimov began experiencing heart troubles before entering his second phase of science fiction writing, suffering a heart attack in 1977 and having triple bypass surgery a year after the release of Foundation’s Edge. He died on April 6th, 1992 of apparent heart and kidney failure. It was not until 2002 that his second wife Janet revealed in a new edition of Asimov’s autobiography that he had in fact contracted HIV through a blood transfusion, which had led to a number of the issues that eventually caused his death.
Isaac Asimov is still remembered as one of the most prominent science fiction authors of the modern era and his works are enjoyed by many fans of the genre all over the world.