Isaac Asimov was born on January 2, 1920 in Petrouchi, Russia. His parents were Judah and Anna Asimov. Isaac also has a sister Veronica and a brother Stanley. In 1923 his family immigrated to the United States. He and his family grew up in Brooklyn, New York. In Brooklyn his family ran a small candy and magazine store. This is one of the places where Asimov began to learn about printing. Also it was here that Asimov learned good business and self-discipline skills (Bloom, 251).
Asimov attended school and was a very bright student. He went to college at Columbia University. He graduated from there with his master’s degree in Chemistry in 1941. His career was cut short though because in 1942 he moved to Philadelphia Naval Yard to work for the war. In 1945 he entered the army. In July of 1946 he was discharged from the army and he moved around for a few years till settling in West Newton, Massachusetts with Gertrude. It is there that he raised his family (Seiler,8).
Asimov married Gertrude Blugerman on July 26th, 1942. They met on a blind date on Valentine’s Day. In 1955 their first son was born they named him David. Four years later their daughter Robyn Joan was born. Asimov met another woman Janet Jepson at a mystery writers banquet. The two of them were immediately attracted to one another. In 1970 when Gertrude and Asimov separated he moved in with Janet. His divorce to Gertrude was officialized on November 16th, 1973. On November 30th, 1973 an official of the Ethical Culture Society married Asimov and Janet in her home. They did not have any
Asimov worked for many years of his life before become just a writer. His first job was in 1929. When Asimov’s mother became ill and could no longer work at the family business. This is where Asimov first learned his skills he would carry for the rest of his life. He was a hardworking diligent man. After the war and everything Asimov became an instructor at the Boston University of medicine. He was promoted to assistant professor in December of 1951. On July 1st, 1958 he gave up his teaching job and became a writer. Finally in 1979 he was promoted to professor (9).
Being a very diligent writer Asimov wrote more than eight hours a day, seven days a week. Although he was also preoccupied with writing he made time to get out and do things. In 1971 he joined the Dutch Treat Club. They were a group who met every Tuesday at a hotel for lunch. Another group, which Asimov was a part of, was the Baker Street Irregulars. This was a group of Sherlock Holmes fans. And although Asimov admitted to not liking Holmes that much he did love to make toasts and speeches at banquets. One of his favorite things to do was sing and he belonged to 2 other groups the Gilbert and Sullivan Society. There were two additional societies, which Asimov belonged to that influenced some of his stories (10).
At the young age of eleven years old Asimov began writing. With his first attempt at writing he began The Greenville Chums at College. This was a story based on the lives of 3 young boys living in a small town. At first Asimov gave up writing, for he did not think he knew what he was doing. However, his whole attitude changed when at school one day he told the story he had written. His friend was impressed with it and wanted to borrow the book when Asimov finished it. This gave Asimov the confidence he needed to begin a writing career that would last a lifetime. Asimov’s first published writing was in his high school’s newspaper column. He wrote a humorous story called ?Little Brothers.?(12)
Asimov’s first published story was in 1939 it was entitled ?Marooned Off Vesta?. This story was featured in the magazine Astounding Science Fiction. The astounding publisher of this magazine was John W. Campbell Jr. He and Asimov had a close relationship and it was this that gave Asimov his beginning of a prosperous career. Asimov wrote mainly science fiction stories about robots. His themes of his stories were mainly based around his ideas that robots were rational programmable beings and friendly towards humans (Bloom, 251).
Asimov’s stories are mainly based around science fiction. He was a very intelligent man and this showed through in his stories. They were very technologically advanced. Asimov was fascinated with robots. He wrote mainly of their adventures. All of his stories shared a main theme. This theme was derived from the 3 laws of robotics as Asimov had formed them. They are:
1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the first law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the first or second laws. (Magill, 877)
These laws are apparent in all of Asimov’s stories about robots. The plots of his stories used these laws and tested them. In many of his stories he compares robots to humans, and illustrates humans’ fear of machines.
Religion is a main influence for Asimov’s stories. Asimov was an atheist. He believed in nothing at all. In fact he considered religion harmful to people. ? I would not be satisfied to have my kids choose to be religious without trying to argue them out of it, just as I would not be satisfied to have them decide to smoke regularly or engage in any other practice I consider detrimental to mind or body?(qtd. In Brummond, 3). So Asimov really did not like religion. He had proclaimed many times that he had no faith but more often than not in stories religion was present. In one of his most famous stories the entire story is based around the Christianity story. This story has a negative outlook for at the end destruction is apparent and that resembles how Christians fear hell. In most of Asimov’s stories if religion is present but it is not to glorify it (Brummond, 1).
Another influence to Asimov’s stories was two of the societies to which he belonged. One society The Wodehouse Society Asimov used the butler Jeeves in many of his stories. This character played a major part of Asimov’s Black Widower stories also the Wodehouse society gained recognition in his Azazel stories. The other group, which Asimov belonged to, that influenced his writing was the Trap Door Spiders. This was an all male group that met one Friday per month. Many of the characters in the Black Widower stories were based on members of this group. The groups that Asimov belonged to were influential to his works and can be seen today (Seiler, 10).
Asimov had many influences on his career. Many of them were ones he picked up during his life through experiences. He was a hardworking man and learned responsibility from his early job with his family. He lived and fought in World War 2. This was also another influence to his work. His personal knowledge and love for writing are one of the main reasons Asimov wrote such wonderful stories.
Many of Asimov’s stories were very influential in his time and still are today. At the time of their publications science fiction was not very popular. The stories Asimov was writing were much different form the popular stories during that era. However Asimov helped to gain science fiction acceptance. Asimov wrote different subject matter and it was his manner of writing that made him popular. When he began writing about robots they were viewed as negative, because many people misunderstood them and they seemed impractical. Asimov had to overcome many prejudices to make his stories popular (Allen, 24)
Since Asimov was very intelligent it helped him make histories seem realistic. As we can see in one of his most popular stories ?Bicentennial Man? Asimov was very highly advanced. He had a very vivid imagination and his stories are even very far ahead of our technology today. In bicentennial man he talks about a robot that strives to become human. This was one of the first times someone had compared a robot to a human. This story was made into a very popular movie and last year it appeared in theaters. This shows that Asimov’s stories are still very popular today.
Asimov has won quite a few awards in his lifetime for his achievements. Two major award-winning stories are The Foundation Trilogy and the novel The Gods Themselves. What made Asimov’s stories so influential was that they were the first in his time. No one else before him had done such a thing and written about robots as he had. He introduced people of his time period into science fiction and beyond. (Magill, 875).
More evidence that Asimov was very influential is in the magazine and his seminar that he began. The seminar takes place over four days late in the summer. Asimov founded it in 1972. The seminar hosts guest speakers and discusses many things relating to science. The magazine which Asimov was editor for is still around today it is entitled Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine. This magazine is still in print today and in its time it was the most prestigious of science fiction magazines. The magazines first issue came out in the spring of 1977. This is proof that Asimov was popular then, and although he passed away his stories still intrigue readers today (O’Neill, 1)
Isaac Asimov died on April 6th, 1992. He died because of heart and kidney failure. At his death he was working on his last set of stories titled Forward the Foundation. Asimov had finished them before he died and they were published a year later. Some of the stories had already been published in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine. So he died with no work left undone. Asimov lived a great life and gave us a good foundation for much science fiction today.
Allen, David L. ?Isaac Asimov.? Science Fiction Writers. Ed. Richard Bleiler.
New York: Macmillan Publishing USA, 1999.
Bloom, Harold, ed. Twentieth-Century American Literature. Vol. 1. New York:
Chelsea House Publishers, 1985.
Brummond, Michael. ?Religion in Asimov’s Writings.? 11 May 1999: pg. 3. On-
line. Internet. 21 May 2000. Available WWW.Angelfire.com/wi/mikebru/alps.html.
Magill, Frank N. ed. Critical Survey Of Short Fiction. Vol. 3. New Jersey: Salem
O’Neill, John. ?A Brief History of Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine.?
1998: 2 pg. On-line. Internet. 21 May 2000. Available WWW.sfsite.com/columns/asimov.html.
Seiler, Edward. ?Frequently Asked Questions about Isaac Asimov.? 2 Apr. 1999.
Pgs. 25. On-line. Internet. 21 May 2000. Available WWW.clark.net/pub/edseiler/WWW/asimov_FAQ.html.