19 March 2008

Arthur C. Clarke's passing

According to the BBC, scientist and novelist Arthur C. Clarke has died in Sri Lanka at the age of 90.

He wrote over 100 books, but is best known for writing the novel "2001: A Space Odyssey" that became a famous film directed by Stanley Kubrick, but perhaps his greatest contribution to history is his design of the concept of the geostationary satellite. Clark in a 1945 article in Wireless World proposed how a satellite orbiting over the equator at around 35,787 km over mean sea level could remain stationary over its "footprint" area. Whether or not his article was in fact the catalyst for geostationary satellites is unclear, but his science was impeccable. This ultimately had a profound influence over telecommunications and more recently television.

A dark cloud was briefly pulled over his life by the leftwing tabloid the Sunday Mirror alleging that he was a pedophile. Clark denied the allegations and a police investigation found no evidence to support the comments attributed to him, and the Sunday Mirror ultimately having to publish a retraction.

However Clark was a fascinating man - he was seen by me first in a TV series called "Arthur C. Clarke's mysterious world" which was unforgettable for the Mitchell-Hedges Skull that was part of the introduction to every episode. He had a remarkable imagination and whilst fascinated by the paranormal, was ever the scientist seeking rational answers to unexplained phenomena.

He is survived by his foundation which exists to:

  • "Stimulate creative use of communications technologies and social resources to improve health, education, and the quality of life for people everywhere, with emphasis on the needs of developing countries."
  • "Integrate science and technology with literature, film and other means of outreach to enhance recognition of our increasingly complex, interconnected world."
  • "Deepen public understanding of science and technology, and their impact on humanity and all the other components of our universe."
these are all noble pursuits inspired by a man who looked at the stars and saw endless possibilities for humanity to use science, go forth, create and discover.

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