Saturday, 8 December 2007

EXCLUSIVE: Town forgets to celebrate Sir Arthur's 90th birthday

SIR Arthur C. Clarke (pictured), the most famous person to have been raised in Minehead, is due to celebrate his 90th birthday on Sunday, December 16.
But in his home town, the anniversary will pass almost unnoticed as there are no plans for any public occasion.
However, after The Post alerted the Mayor of Minehead, Councillor David Hawkes, the town council could send a civic greetings card to Sir Arthur and possibly link up with him via a webcam chat.
Councillor Hawkes said he would liaise with Air Arthur’s brother, Fred Clarke, who lives in Bishops Lydeard, to see what could be arranged.
He told The Post: “I know of Sir Arthur and the plaque on his house, but I did not know it was his birthday.
“Nobody has suggested doing anything, so I suppose it shows there is not a lot of interest at the moment.
“But I am always open to ideas and it would be nice if we could do something, and it would be good for the town as a whole.”
West Somerset Council spokeswoman Stacey Beaumont told The Post when asked if the district council planned to do anything to mark Sir Arthur’s birthday: “We have no plans.”
Fred Clarke told The Post that the only celebrations of which he was aware were being organised by Sir Arthur’s staff in Columbo, Sri Lanka, where he lives.
Mr Clarke said: “I spoke to him a few days ago. He is keeping pretty well.
“He is now in a wheelchair completely but seems to be quite happy and cheerful.
“I spoke to his staff and they are laying on celebrations over there.
“It would have been nice for something to be done in Minehead as well. He has great affection for Minehead.”
Sir Arthur, probably best known for his groundbreaking novel 2001 A Space Odyssey, later made into a Hollywood film by director Stanley Kubrick, was born in Blenheim Road, Minehead, and went to school at what is now the Richard Huish College, in Taunton.
He has lived in Sri Lanka since 1956 and has only occasionally returned to Minehead, once, in 1992, to have the Freedom of the Town bestowed on him ‘in recognition of his distinguished services to science and the arts’.
Sir Arthur was knighted in 1998, but the honour was not bestowed on him until 2000 due to a row over a national newspaper allegation against him which was later shown to be unfounded.
He is credited with inventing the idea of satellite telecommunications, writing a private paper on it in 1945, and two decades later he saw his vision turned into reality with the advent of satellites in geostationary orbits.
The International Astronomical Union has named the geostationary orbit at 36,000 kilometres above the equator The Clarke Orbit in tribute to Sir Arthur.
The learning resource centre in Richard Huish College has been named in honour of Sir Arthur, who also has an asteroid and a species of dinosaur discovered in Australia named after him.
NASA’s 2001 Mars Odyssey orbiter, which is looking for evidence of past or present water and volcanic activity to help answer the question of whether life has ever existed on Mars, is also named in honour of Sir Arthur’s work.
Fred Clarke is currently setting up a group to encourage budding young inventors.
It will be called the Pip Youngman Group after the late Taunton inventor, who worked with young people aged from 13 to 24 years.
Mr Clarke said: “It is for youngsters who have ideas which we will encourage them to develop.
“We will check out an idea to see if anybody has done it before, and do drawings and models to try to see if we can get somebody to take it up.”
Mr Clarke said he was inspired by what had happened to Sir Arthur, whose communications satellite invention was not taken up by anybody in England and so was eventually given to an American.
“Now, we spend millions every year on satellite communications which we pay to the Americans,” he said.
“I do not want to see that happen to any more of our young inventors.”

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