Thursday, 20 March 2008

Three last wishes of Sir Arthur

SCIENCE fiction author and inventor of the communications satellite Sir Arthur C. Clarke passed away on Tuesday after a brief illness. He was aged 90 years.
He died at Colombo’s Apollo Hospital from respiratory complications with his business partner Hector Ekanayake, who heads his adopted Sri Lankan family, with him to the end, along with his office and household staff.
Sir Arthur had also been suffering from post-polio syndrome since the early 1990s, which confined him to a wheelchair for the past decade.
Mr Ekanayake said Sir Arthur remained alert and active throughout his recent illness.
He was also in regular contact with his literary agents, publishers, and officials of the non-profit Arthur C. Clarke Foundation, which is based in Washington, USA.
Only a few days ago, Sir Arthur reviewed the final manuscript of his latest science fiction novel, The Last Theorem.
Co-written with the American author Frederik Pohl, the book is to be published later this year.
Sir Arthur is survived by his brother Fred and sister Mary, who both live locally. Their youngest brother, Michael, predeceased him.
Fred Clarke and his youngest daughter Judith were yesterday (Wednesday) travelling to Sri Lanka to attend the funeral.
Fred’s other daughter, Angie, who is a director of the foundation, will, by coincidence, be attending the annual prizegiving ceremony at Richard Huish College, Taunton, tonight (Thursday) with fellow director Peter Marshall, to present a new award, the Arthur C. Clarke prize for innovation.
The foundation had already agreed to donate the award and a bursary to the winning student at Sir Arthur’s old school.
The college has previously named its learning resources centre in honour of Sir Arthur.
Mr Marshall told The Post Sir Arthur’s illness during the past few months meant that his death had not been totally unexpected.
He said: “The job of the foundation is to promote his name and his legacy and perpetuate his name and all his good works all around the world, both on the fiction side and the science side of his life.
“We will continue to do this in the future with even more vigour since his legacy depends on us.”
Mr Marshall said he was aware that Fred Clarke had led previous attempts to set up an Arthur C. Clarke centre in either Minehead or Taunton.
He said: “In each case they did not get too far in raising money for it. Maybe this will be a stimulus to do it now.”
In his 90th birthday reflections video released on YouTube in December, Sir Arthur said he had ‘no regrets and no more personal ambitions’.
He listed three ‘last wishes’: some evidence of extra-terrestrial life, adoption of clean energy sources, and an end to the long-drawn civil war in Sri Lanka.
He said: “I have had a diverse career as a writer, underwater explorer, space promoter, and science populariser.
“Of all these, I want to be remembered most as a writer - one who entertained readers, and, hopefully, stretched their imagination as well.”
Sir Arthur wrote 100 books and more than 1,000 short stories and essays during 60 years.
Among his best-selling novels are Childhood’s End, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Rendezvous with Rama, and Fountains of Paradise.
One of his short stories, ‘Dial F for Frankenstein’, written in 1964, inspired British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee to invent the World Wide Web in 1989.
Another short story, ‘The Sentinel’, 1948, was expanded to make the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, which he co-wrote with director Stanley Kubrick. They shared an Oscar nomination for the best screenplay in 1969.
Trained in physics and mathematics, Sir Arthur also wrote many books and essays of non-fiction on space travel, communication technologies, underwater exploration and future studies.
In a landmark scientific paper titled ‘Extra-terrestrial Relays’ published in 1945, Arthur C. Clarke was the first to set out the principles of satellite communication with satellites placed in geostationary orbits.
Sir Arthur never patented the idea, and received no financial benefits from his invention. He was contented being acknowledged as the ‘Godfather of the communication satellite’, and having the geostationary orbit designated as ‘Clarke Orbit’.
Born in Minehead, he was educated at Huish's Grammar School, Taunton, and King's College, London.
He worked in the British Exchequer and Audit Department and served as a Flight Lieutenant in the Royal Air Force before turning a full-time author in 1950.
His interest in diving and underwater exploration led him to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), where he settled in 1956.
He pioneered diving and underwater tourism in Sri Lanka through his company Underwater Safaris, and played an active role as a public intellectual and as a patron of art, science, and higher education.
He served as Chancellor of Sri Lanka's technological University of Moratuwa from 1979 to 2002.
Although he became the island nation’s first ‘resident guest’ in 1975, Sir Arthur always remained a British citizen.
The Sri Lankan government presented him the Lankabhimanya (‘Pride of Lanka’), the country's highest civilian honour, in 2005.
Government officials, scientists, artistes and diplomats came together to felicitate Sir Arthur on his 90th birthday on December 16, 2007.
Sir Arthur’s literary achievements were recognised by the Queen when she honoured him with a Knighthood in 1998. He had received the CBE in 1989.
Sir Arthur was conferred several honorary doctorates from universities around the world, and had won all the top science fiction literary awards at one time or another.
In 1996, the International Astronomical Union named asteroid No 4923 in his honour, while scientists at the University of Monash, Australia, named a newly-discovered dinosaur species as Serendipaceratops arthurcclarkei in 2003.
  • Our photo shows Sir Arthur on his 90th birthday in December. Photo courtesy of Sir Arthur C. Clarke's office.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.