Monday, March 30, 2015

Isaac Asimov - Biography

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992), painted by Rowena Morrill

q       Isaac Asimov was a biochemistry professor at Boston University (BU) and a writer on many subjects, but focusing mainly on Sci-Fi.

q       He wrote over 500 books. He's considered a master of hard Sci-Fi and is one of the "Big Three" in the genre.

q       Asimov is famous for writing several series of books, all linked together into one great big universe, including: the Robot series, the Galactic Empire series, and the Foundation series.

q       Asimov is most famous for his three laws of robotics, crucial to the programming of any artificial intelligence:

1.      A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2.      A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

3.      A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

q       His Foundation series is famous for its study of psychohistory, a fictional branch of science that can predict the future, based on principles of psychology and sociology, combined with tons of population statistics.

q       Asimov wrote hundreds of short stories, often quoting from plays by Gilbert & Sullivan. "Nightfall" was considered the greatest Sci-Fi short story of all time in 1964.

q       Asimov's non-fiction includes a Guide to Science, a Chronology of Science & Discovery, Understanding Physics, a Chronology of History, and works on math and chemistry.

q       Asimov also wrote a series of Sci-Fi for young adults, under the pen name Paul French. It was called the Lucky Starr series.

q       Asimov was president of the American Humanist Association (AHA), and vice president of Mensa, a club of highly intelligent people. When Asimov died, his title as president of the AHA went to his good friend Kurt Vonnegut.

q       He was also a member of the Baker's Street Irregulars, a club dedicated to Sherlock Holmes, and Asimov wrote several mysteries, in his Black Widowers series.

q       Asimov was also a founding member of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry which investigated stories of paranormal activity.

q       He was also good friends with Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, and Isaac served as a special science consultant on the original Star Trek film.

q       Asimov has been honoured by people naming an award after him, as well as a school, an asteroid, and a crater on Mars. All his personal writings have been archived at BU.

Personal Life:

Isaak Yudovich Ozimov, was born in Petrovichi, Russia, to a Jewish family. He had a younger brother and sister. They immigrated to America when he was three. He spoke Yiddish and English at home, never learning Russian.

His family started a candy store in Brooklyn, which also sold newspapers and magazines, which Asimov loved to read. It was a major influence on his work. His father forbade him to read pulp fiction, which he regarded as trash, but young Isaac was able to read anything with 'science' in the title.

Asimov went to public schools and graduated high school at fifteen. He was then accepted to Seth Low Junior College, at Columbia University. He first studied zoology, but didn't want to dissect animals, so he switched to chemistry. He earned his Masters at age twenty-one, and his PhD at twenty-eight. In between degrees, he married Gertrude Blugerman.

During WWII, he worked at the Naval Air Experimental Station in Philadelphia's Navy Yard. After the war, he was drafted and served nine months in the U.S. Army.

After gaining his PhD, Asimov began teaching at BU. He and his wife, Gertrude moved to the town of Newton, and had two children, David and Robyn. In his humor book, Asimov Laughs Again, he described driving in Boston as, "anarchy on wheels." By 1958, he was no longer teaching, instead writing full time, as his writing career earned far more than his school salary.

In 1970, Asimov and his wife separated, and Isaac returned to NYC, this time to the upper west side of Manhattan. They divorced in 1973, and three weeks later Isaac married Janet Jeppson, a fellow Sci-Fi writer and psychiatrist.

Asimov was afraid of flying, instead enjoying cruise ships around the world. He even gave fun science lessons aboard some ships. He was also a claustrophile, enjoying the feeling of small, enclosed spaces.
Asimov died after a long battle with heart disease and AIDS, which he contracted during a blood transfusion during heart surgery. His family waited over ten years to make the news public, because they were afraid of a backlash.

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