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The Island of Dr. Moreau | Study Guide

H. G. Wells

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H. G. Wells | Biography


Early Life and Education

H.G. (Herbert George) Wells was born in Bromley, England, on September 21, 1866. Wells lived in a time of rapid technological innovation that introduced telephones, electricity, automobiles, and airplanes. Growing up in a poor family, Wells worked unhappily as a drapery apprentice and as a chemist's assistant; these difficult early years included 13-hour workdays. He then won a scholarship to the Normal School of Science in London, but although he received a small stipend, he remained poor and hungry. At school he helped found the Science School Journal and wrote a short story called "The Chronic Argonauts," which foreshadowed his novel The Time Machine (1895). He left the school in 1887 without a degree, but he finally obtained a bachelor of science in zoology from the University of London a few years later.

Early Career

Eventually Wells found teaching positions, first at Henley House School in London and later with the University Correspondence College. Married first to his cousin Isabel Mary in 1891 (c. 1866–1930), he separated from her in 1894 and married Amy Robbins (1872–1927), with whom he had two sons. With her knowledge, he carried on several affairs with other women over the years, resulting in two more children.

Publishing Success

Wells's schooling in physics, biology, zoology, and geology, along with his talent for writing, led him to publish his first book, Textbook of Biology, in 1893. Two years later he published his first novel, The Time Machine. This book sparked a highly successful writing career, and Wells went on to produce some of the earliest works of science fiction, a genre that at the time was called "scientific romance." After The Time Machine, he published The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897), and The War of the Worlds (1898). The Island of Doctor Moreau touched heavily upon evolution and vivisection (performance of surgical operations on living animals for the purposes of research and experimentation), two controversial topics of the time. Although the book sold well, it was considered shocking. Britain's Daily Telegraph called it "a morbid aberration of scientific curiosity," and Wells himself later described it as "an exercise in youthful blasphemy."

Wells developed an interest in what he called the World State, where there would no longer be individual nations; he imagined this situation would be mankind's future. The power of his writing was evident on October 30, 1938, when a New York City radio station broadcast a dramatized version of The War of the Worlds. The broadcast, which described Martians landing in New Jersey, reportedly caused some panic in the area.

Death and Legacy

By the time Wells died at age 79 on August 13, 1946, he had been nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature four times. He is remembered as a founding father of science fiction who determined many characteristics of the genre and ensured its continued relevance. His works have continued to capture the interest of the reading public, with adaptations of The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds released in the 21st century.

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