Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

The life and work of H.G. Wells: a timeline

The thirteenth of August marks the 150th birth and the 70th death anniversary of legendary science fiction writer H.G. Wells. A prophet of modern progress, he accurately predicted several historical milestones, from the World War II, nuclear weapons, to Wikipedia. His humble origins gave him insight into class issues, and his studies in biology propelled him to become one of the greatest thinkers and observers of his time. Combined with a flair for story-telling, Herbert George Wells dominated and defines the science fiction genre till this day. His 1895 published novel, The Time Machine, propelled him to fame and inspired studies and speculation from later generations of physicists and theorists.

Also known as ‘the Father of Science Fiction,’ H. G. Wells was overwhelmingly prolific. Over the course of his life, Wells produced over a hundred pieces of work, ranging from ‘scientific romances,’ as they were called in the day, to non-fiction essays on politics, cultural commentaries, and world history. These creations led to his four nominations for the Nobel Prize in Literature. His personal life was equally eventful. A free-thinker and modernist, Wells engaged in numerous affairs with prominent feminists, writers, and activists throughout his life, most notably with Moura Budberg, who by many accounts was said to have been a Ukrainian spy.

A blend of creative voice and unbounded imagination gave him the perfect recipe for literary success. Wells understood the skepticism of his readers, and respected their intellectual hesitance to embrace the extraordinary, which led to his forming ‘Wells’ Law:’ that “a science fiction story should contain only a single extraordinary assumption.” Indeed, this law has worked so well, this gift for building credibility in realism and then engaging audience with original fantasies inspired multiple later authors, from Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, to Ursula K. Le Guin.

“If the world does not please you, you can change it.” The History of Mr. Polly, H.G. Wells

Wells was also an active member in politics, having run for Parliament as a Labor Party candidate for two years. He had a vision for the world, and he wanted to actively change it, although both his election runs ended in failure. Nevertheless, through his science fiction and insightful essays, H.G. Wells has managed to change the landscape of imagination and of science. His influence is palpable even in the present day. In memory of this anniversary, we have made a list of major events and predictions made in the life of H. G. Wells in the interactive timeline below.

 

Featured image credit: Depiction of a futuristic city, Jonas de Ro. CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Recent Comments

  1. Anne Greenshields

    I love the HG Wells time line – particularly the predictions.
    One typo you might want to fix is for the image and entry for the beginning of WW2. You have it all at 1933 not 1939. This jars as it is out of sequence to the other images.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *