The challenge of the spaceship: Arthur C. Clarke and the history of the future, 1930–1970

Robert Poole
  • History and Technology, September 2012, Taylor & Francis
  • DOI: 10.1080/07341512.2012.722793

Arthur C. Clarke and the space age

What is it about?

Arthur C. Clarke had a remarkable life as an all-round 'techno-prophet', working through both science fiction and technological lobbying to bring about the human future in space which his generation of visionaries so desperately desired. His success was incredible: in the 1960s he wrote the most successful sci-fi film ever, '2001: A Space Odyssey' and commentated for CBS on the first Moon landing. This article looks at the roots of his ideas in the post-war years.

Why is it important?

What made Arthur C. Clarke such a credible space writer and advocate was his sense of history, which made his ideas seem both compelling and inevitable. This article shows where this came from: his anxiety about the atomic bomb and the possible end of human history in the post-war years, and his reading of Arnold Toynbee's blockbuster 'A Study of History'. It also looks at perhaps his greatest influence: Olaf Stapledon, author of the prophetic mega-history 'Last and First Men'.

The following have contributed to this page: Dr Robert J Poole