The World According to Wells | History | Smithsonian

The World According to Wells

Best-known for sci-fi classics like The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds, H. G. Wells became one of the most prolific, and controversial, writers of his day

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 H. G. Wells foresaw, decades in advance, the invention of the atomic bomb. He wrote about time being a fourth dimension ten years before Einstein's special theory of relativity. He warned—in The Island of Doctor Moreau—that biologists might someday play God by creating new life-forms. He envisioned a "World Brain" (not unlike our Internet), a depository of all the world's knowledge, accessible to all. He predicted a sexual revolution, women's liberation, a higher divorce rate. As our author Joel Achenbach puts it, "H. G. Wells did not invent the future, but he tried."

 Over the course of five decades—from the publication of The Time Machine in 1895 to his death at 79 in 1946—Wells wrote more than 100 books, and countless essays and articles. The books included not only his famous early science fiction but countless nonfiction tomes on human destiny, and thick, Dickensian novels attacking the class structure of England. Believing that human history "becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe," he produced huge, sweeping surveys of science and history (which were best-sellers for years to come). He lobbied for a league of nations, met with Roosevelt and Stalin in the ‘30s, and during World War II created the first draft of what would become the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. While he was at it, he also got into very public feuds with Henry James (over the purpose of "the novel") and George Bernard Shaw (over who was the better socialist); promoted the idea of free love (and scandalously put his theories into practice); and had his notions of a world government spoofed in Aldous Huxley's satirical novel, Brave New World. All on top of pretty much inventing the genre of modern science fiction within the first few years of a lengthy and fascinating career.

Abstract of an article by Joel Achenbach.

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