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Herbert George Wells (1866-1946)

Herbert George Wells (1866-1946)
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English novelist, journalist, sociologist, and historian, whose science fiction stories have been filmed many times. Wells's best known works are THE TIME MACHINE (1895), one of the first modern science fiction stories, THE INVISIBLE MAN (1897), and THE WAR OF THE WORLDS (1898). Wells wrote over a hundred of books, about fifty of them novels.

"No one would have believed, in the last years of the nineteenth century, that human affairs were being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their affairs they were scrutinized and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinize the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water." (from War of the Worlds)

Along with George Orwell's Nineteen-Eighty-Four and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, which was a pessimistic answer to scientific optimism, Wells's novels are among the classics of science-fiction. Later Wells's romantic and enthusiastic conception of technology turned more doubtful. His bitter side is seen early in the novel BOON (1915), which was a parody of Henry James.

Herbert George Wells was born in Bromley, Kent. His father was a shopkeeper and a professional cricketer until he broke his leg. In his early childhood Wells developed love for literature. His mother served from time to time as a housekeeper at the nearby estate of Uppark, and young Wells studied books in the library secretly. When his father's business failed, Wells was apprenticed like his brothers to a draper. He spent the years between 1880 and 1883 in Windsor and Southsea, and later recorded them in KIPPS (1905). In the story Arthur Kipps is raised by his aunt and uncle. Kipps is also apprenticed to a draper. After learning that he has been left a fortune, Kipps enters the upper-class society, which Wells describes with sharp social criticism.

In 1883 Wells became a teacher/pupil at Midhurst Grammar School. He obtained a scholarship to the Normal School of Science in London and studied there biology under T.H. Huxley. However, his interest faltered and in 1887 he left without a degree. He taught in private schools for four years, not taking his B.S. degree until 1890. Next year he settled in London, married his cousin Isabel and continued his career as a teacher in a correspondence college. From 1893 Wells became a full-time writer.

Wells left Isabel for one of his brightest students, Amy Catherine, whom he married in 1895. As a novelist Wells made his debut with The Time Machine, a parody of English class division. The narrator is Hillyer, who discusses with his friends about theories of time travel. A week later their host has an incredible story to tell - he has returned from the year 802701. The Time Traveler had found two people: the Eloi, weak and little, who live above ground in a seemingly Edenic paradise, and the Morlocks, bestial creatures that live below ground, who eat the Eloi. The Traveler's beautiful friend Weena is killed, he flees into the far future, where he encounters "crab-like creatures" and things "like a huge white butterfly", that have taken over the planet. In the year 30,000,000 he finds lichens, blood-red sea and a creature with tentacles. He returns horrified back to the present. Much of the realistic atmosphere of the story was achieved by carefully studied technical details. The basic principles of the machine contained materials regarding time as the fourth dimension - years later Albert Einstein published his theory of the four dimensional continuum of space-time.

The Time Machine was followed by THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU (1896), in which a mad scientist transforms animals into human creatures. The story is told in flashback by a man named Prendick. He travels with a biologist to a remote island, which is controlled by Dr. Moreau. In his laboratory he experiments with animals, and has created Beast People. Moreau is killed by Puma-Woman. Prendick escapes from the island, and returns to London. He concludes the tale: "Even then it seemed that I, too, was not a reasonable creature, but only an animal tormented with some strange disorder in its brain, that sent it to wander alone, like as sheep stricken with the gid." Wells, who was a Darwinist, did not reject the evolutionary theory but attacked optimists and warned that human progress is not inevitable. In film versions the character of Dr. Moreau has inspired such actors as Charles Laughton, Burt Lancaster, and Marlon Brando.

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