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H. G. Wells | Biography

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H.G. (Herbert George) Wells, born in Bromley, England, on September 21, 1866, lived in a time of rapid technological innovation that introduced telegraphs, telephones, electricity, automobiles, and airplanes. His schooling in physics, chemistry, and biology and talent for writing led him to write The Time Machine (1895), his first published literary work (he had written a biology textbook in 1893). The novel sparked a highly successful writing career, and Wells went on to produce some of the earliest works of science fiction, including such classics as:

  • The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896)
  • The Invisible Man (1897)
  • The War of the Worlds (1898)

Growing up in a poor family, Wells worked unhappily as a draper and a chemist's assistant until winning a scholarship to the Normal School of Science in London. But although he received a small stipend, he was always poor and hungry. At school, he helped found the Science School Journal and wrote a short story called "The Chronic Argonauts," which foreshadowed The Time Machine.

Eventually, Wells found a teaching position at Henley House School in London, which gave him a secure income. Married first to his cousin Isabel Mary, he separated from her in 1894, remarrying to Amy Robbins, with whom he had two sons. With her permission, he carried on several affairs with women over the years, resulting in two more children.

His difficult early years, which included 13-hour workdays as a drapery apprentice, made him extremely conscious of class differences and influenced him to join the socialist Fabian Society and to write about social classes, as he does in The Time Machine. Later, he developed an interest in what he called the World State, which he imagined would be mankind's future. There would no longer be individual nations, science would set intelligent policies, and people would have equal economic opportunities.

The power of Wells's writing was nowhere more evident than on the night before Halloween 1938, when a New York City radio station broadcasting a drama of The War of the Worlds described Martians landing in New Jersey and caused a real-life panic among millions in the area.

By the time Wells died of an apparent heart attack at age 79 on August 13, 1946, he had been nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature four times.

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