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H.G. Wells | Biography

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H.G. (Herbert George) Wells, born in Bromley, United Kingdom, 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 his 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 (1897)

Growing up in a poor family, Wells worked unhappily as a draper and a chemist's assistant until he won a scholarship to the Normal School of Science in London. 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 provided him with a secure income. Married first to his cousin Isabel Mary, he separated from her in 1894. He remarried to Amy Robbins; the couple had two sons. With his free-thinking attitudes toward social behavior, he carried on several affairs with women over the years, resulting in two more children.

Wells's 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 Fabian Society—an organization that advanced democratic socialism through gradual reform rather than revolution—and write about social classes, one of the themes in The Time Machine. Later he developed an interest in the World State, which he imagined would be humankind's future. The World State, as envisioned in author Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, is based on one government that rules the planet. Individual nations would no longer exist, science would dictate government policies, and people would have equal economic opportunities.

Wells established a genre so influential that it has permeated nearly every form of media today. In the postmodern age, works of science fiction and dystopia continue to explore many of the themes, such as science, technology, and power, set out by Wells in his early novels.

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

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