If anybody mentions Science-Fiction to me I get very excited, so I thought I would pay tribute to English author, Herbert George “H. G.” Wells who was born 21st September 1866 in Bromley, Kent. He is best known for his work in the science fiction genre but also wrote contemporary novels about, history, politics and social commentary, as well as textbooks and rules for war games. Together with Jules Verne and Hugo Gernsback, Wells has been referred to as “The Father of Science Fiction”. His most notable science fiction works include The War of the Worlds, The Time Machine, The Invisible Man and The Island of Doctor Moreau & his earliest specialised training was in biology, and his thinking on ethical matters took place in a specifically and fundamentally Darwinian context. He was also from an early date an outspoken socialist, often (but not always, as the beginning of the First World War) sympathising with pacifist views. His later works became increasingly political and didactic, and he sometimes indicated on official documents that his profession was that of “Journalist.” Most of his later novels were not science fiction. Some described lower-middle class life (Kipps; The History of Mr Polly), leading him to be touted as a worthy successor to Charles Dickens, but Wells described a range of social strata and even attempted, in Tono-Bungay (1909), a diagnosis of English society as a whole. Wells also wrote abundantly about the “New Woman” and the Suffragettes.A defining incident of young Wells’s life was an accident in 1874 that left him bedridden with a broken leg. To pass the time he started reading books from the local library, brought to him by his father. He soon became devoted to the other worlds and lives to which books gave him access; they also stimulated his desire to write. Later that year he entered Thomas Morley’s Commercial Academy, until 1880. From 1880 to 1883, Wells had an unhappy apprenticeship as a draper at the Southsea Drapery Emporium, Hyde’s, this later inspired his novels The Wheels of Chance and Kipps, which portray the life of a draper’s apprentice as well as providing a critique of society’s distribution of wealth.
In October 1879 Wells joined the National School at Wookey in Somerset as a pupil-teacher, a senior pupil who acted as a teacher of younger children. After a short apprenticeship at a chemist in nearby Midhurst, and an even shorter stay as a boarder at Midhurst Grammar School, an opportunity was offered by Midhurst Grammar School again to become a pupil-teacher; his proficiency in Latin and science during his previous, short stay had been remembered aand enabled him to continue his self-education in earnest. The following year, Wells won a scholarship to the Normal School of Science (later the Royal College of Science in South Kensington, now part of Imperial College London) in London, studying biology under Thomas Henry Huxley (Who was an English biologist (anatomist), known as “Darwin’s Bulldog” for his advocacy of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution) where He soon entered the Debating Society of the school. These years mark the beginning of his interest in a possible reformation of society. At first approaching the subject through The Republic by Plato, he soon turned to contemporary ideas of socialism as expressed by the recently formed Fabian Society and free lectures delivered at Kelmscott House, the home of William Morris. He was also among the founders of The Science School Journal, a school magazine which allowed him to express his views on literature and society, as well as trying his hand at fiction: the first version of his novel The Time Machine was published in the journal under the title, The Chronic Argonauts. After teaching for some time, Wells found it necessary to supplement his knowledge relating to educational principles and methodology and entered the College of Preceptors (College of Teachers). He later received his Licentiate and Fellowship FCP diplomas from the College. It was not until 1890 that Wells earned a Bachelor of Science degree in zoology from the University of London External Programme, In 1889–90 he managed to find a post as a teacher at Henley House School where he taught A. A. Milne.
Wells’s first non-fiction bestseller was Anticipations of the Reaction of Mechanical and Scientific Progress Upon Human Life and Thought and Some of his early novels, invented a number of themes now classic in science fiction in such works as The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau, The Invisible Man, The War of the Worlds, When the Sleeper Wakes, and The First Men in the Moon. He also wrote realistic novels that received critical acclaim, including Kipps and a satire on Edwardian advertising, Tono-Bungay. Wells also wrote dozens of short stories and novellas, the best known of which is “The Country of the Blind” (1904). His short story “The New Accelerator” was also the inspiration for the Star Trek episode Wink of an Eye. Wells also wrote non-fiction including, The Outline of History, A Short History of the World, The Science of Life and The Work, Wealth and Happiness of Mankind. Wells also wrote a number of Utopian novels including A Modern Utopia, which usually begin with the rushing to catastrophe, until people realise a better way of living, such as abandoning war (In the Days of the Comet) or having a world council of scientists taking over, as in The Shape of Things to Come, which was later adapted for the 1936 Alexander Korda film, Things to Come. Men Like Gods is also a utopian novel. Wells also contemplated the ideas of nature versus nurture and questions humanity in books such as The Island of Doctor Moreau, In which an unfortunate chap finds himself trapped on an island of animals being vivisected unsuccessfully into human beings, and after eventually escaping he finds himself unable to shake off the perceptions that his fellow humans as barely civilised beasts, slowly reverting to their animal natures.
In 1936, Wells called for the compilation of a constantly growing and changing World Encyclopaedia, to be reviewed by outstanding authorities and made accessible to every human being. In 1938, he published a collection of essays on the future organisation of knowledge and education, World Brain, including the essay, “The Idea of a Permanent World Encyclopaedia”. Seeking a more structured way to play war games, Wells also wrote Floor Games followed by Little Wars which is recognised today as the first recreational wargame and Wells is regarded by gamers and hobbyists as “the Father of Miniature War Gaming”. His most consistent political ideal was the World State, which he considered inevitable. He envisioned the state to be a planned society that would advance science, end nationalism, and allow people to progress by merit rather than birth, Wells also believed in the theory of eugenics and Some contemporary supporters even suggested connections between the degenerate man-creatures portrayed in The Time Machine and Wells’s eugenic beliefs. Wells also brought his interest in Art & Design and politics together when he and other notables signed a memorandum to the Permanent Secretaries of the Board of Trade, which led to the foundation of the Design and Industries Association. In his last book Mind at the End of its Tether he considered the idea that humanity being replaced by another species might not be a bad idea. He also came to call the era “The Age of Frustration”.
During his final years he began to be particularly outspoken in his criticism of the Catholic Church, he was also a diabetic, and in 1934 co-founded what is now Diabetes UK, the leading charity for people living with diabetes in the UK. On 28 October 1940 Wells was interviewed by Orson Welles, who two years previously had performed an infamous radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds, on KTSA radio in San Antonio, Texas. In the interview, Wells admitted his surprise at the widespread panic that resulted from the broadcast, but acknowledged his debt to Welles for increasing sales of one of his “more obscure” titles. Wells sadly passed away on 13 August 1946 of unspecified causes at his home in London, aged 79. In his preface to the 1941 edition of The War in the Air, Wells had stated that his epitaph should be: “I told you so. You damned fools”. He was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium on 16 August 1946, his ashes scattered at sea. A commemorative blue plaque in his honour was installed at his home in Regent’s Park.