Science fiction pioneer H.G. Wells was born in Bromley, England and received a scholarship to the Normal School of Science in London. Chances are, the Normal School did not make much of an impression on Wells, considering his most famous novels – The Time Machine (1895), The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897) and The War of the Worlds (1898) – hardly normal.
After school, Wells worked as a draper’s apprentice and bookkeeper before becoming a successful freelance writer with his refreshing treatment of scientific topics. He became an overnight literary sensation with publication of The Time Machine, about an English scientist who develops a time travel machine.
Wellscontinued to write what many consider early examples of science fiction. The Island of Doctor Moreau told the story of a man who encounters a scientist conducting gruesome experiments on people and animals in an effort to create a new species of creatures. In The Invisible Man, Wells explores the life of another scientist who undergoes a dark personal transformation after turning himself invisible. The War of the Worlds, his novel about an alien invasion, has become his most famous thanks to the radio broadcast version by Orson Welles on Halloween night 1938 that caused a panic among American listeners who thought that aliens had actually landed in New Jersey. 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.
A larger than life literary figure, Wells was an outspoken socialist, pacifist, ethicist and romantic. He quarreled with George Bernard Shaw, predicted world war in 1933’s The Shape of Things to Come (he said January 1940; it started four months earlier), and romanced both Dorothy Richardson, a stream-of-consciousness pioneer, and Rebecca West, then 19, who in a book review had called Wells “the Old Maid among novelists.”
“Nothing could have been more obvious to the people of the earlier twentieth century”, he wrote, “than the rapidity with which war was becoming impossible . . . they did not see it until the atomic bombs burst in their fumbling hands.” In his last book Mind at the End of its Tether (1945) he suggested that humanity being replaced by another species might not be a bad idea.
H. G. Wells died in 1946.