Born 150 years ago today, H.G. Wells developed a compelling vision of science and the shape of future society. In an article published in Nature, Professor Simon J. James looks back at the varied contributions made by Wells both in his own time and ours.
Although Wells is probably best-known today for science fictions like The War of the Worlds, he produced a vast array of works, from scientific textbooks to journalism to novels. Underlying these was a vision of how speculative writing might motivate humanity to improve:
Behind Wells’s enormous output was a desire to use writing to make the world better — by projecting either a utopian vision of a perfected future, or dystopias revealing how the lessons of his work went unheeded.
Wells was one of the earliest major English writers to be a trained scientist. This background led him to produce science fictions that followed technological trajectories far into the future, often in ways which seem uncannily accurate from our twenty-first-century point of view. However, although his imaginative prescience may lain behind his popularity, Wells saw himself as a public intellectual with a responsibility to use his status in a positive way beyond fiction. As Simon James writes, “education, more than fiction, science or indeed science fiction, was to become the keynote of Wells’s writing career.”
Celebrate Wells’s birthday by reading more about the range and influence of his writing in the full article over at Nature.
Readers in the UK might also be interested in a BBC programme on The Story of H.G. Wells, available on iPlayer until 14th October.