On January 2, 1920, Isaak Yudovich Ozimov was born in Petrovichi, Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, to Jewish millers Anna Rachel Asimov and Judah Asimov. Isaak, however, attained fame and popularity as Isaac Asimov – the science fiction writer and biochemistry professor at Boston University. Apart from having authored or edited 500 books and written over 90,000 letters, science books, and postcards, Asimov has now come to be recognized as one of the greatest visionaries of the technological world. A reluctant MENSA (High-IQ club) member and but a very passionate president of the American Humanitarian Society, Isaac also came to be known for the inspiration he imparted to generations of scientists and philanthropists.
The Asimovs moved to the United States and Asimov grew up in Brooklyn, New York. Reading quickly became young Asimov’s greatest passion and he spent hours soaking up the all books he could find. In 1939, Asimov graduated from Columbia University. Equipped with a degree in chemistry, he then went on to complete a doctorate in 1948. After a stint as a lecturer, in 1955 he was promoted to the position of an Associate Professor of Biochemistry at Boston University. By the 1970s he became a Professor but declined to teach full-time.
Isaac Asimov started his literary career in 1938 with a number of science fiction short stories and other contributions to magazines. Marooned Off Vesta was his first short story to be published. In 1941, Isaac wrote Nightfall – a short story about a planet where nightfall is a phenomenon that occurs once in over 2,000 years. Nightfall, popularly considered one of the best short stories to have ever been published, catapulted Isaac to fame and quickly made the science professor a favorite with general public. Isaac’s first novel, Pebble in the Sky was published in 1950. In 1950, Isaac published the phenomenally successful I, Robot. His stories featured the ethics of robots and machines powered by artificial intelligence and the Three Laws of Robotics as central themes. The Foundation trilogy – consisting Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation – was written between 1951 and 1953. This series featured the end of the Galactic Empire as its main theme.
Isaac’s literary career was not confined to sci-fi alone. He authored a number of non-fiction works on topics ranging from math, biology, and religion, to chemistry, history, and astronomy. Some of his better known works include The Stars, Like Dust (1951), The Currents of Space (1952), The Caves of Steel (1954), The Chemicals of Life (1954), Inside the Atom (1956), The Naked Sun (1957), Earth Is Room Enough (1957), The World of Nitrogen (1958), Life and Energy (1962), The Human Body (1963), The Human Brain (1964), The Neutrino (1966), Science, Numbers, and I (1968), Asimov’s Guide to the Bible (1969), Our World in Space (1974), Views of the Universe (1981), Foundation’s Edge (1982), and The Robots of Dawn (1983).
Isaac Asimov married Gertrude Blugerman in 1942 and had two children – David and Robyn Joan with her. The couple fell apart in 1970 and divorced in 1973. The same year, Isaac married Janet Opal Jeppson, the writer. Isaac was a claustrophile and enjoyed small, closed spaces but suffered from an acute fear of flying. His interest in paranormal activity led him to establish the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), currently known as the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI).
Isaac died on April 6, 1992, in New York City at the age of 72. The initial news report noted heart and kidney failures as the causes of death. Almost a decade later, as part of the epilogue to the autobiography, It’s Been A Good Life, Isaac’s wife Janet Jeppson Asimov revealed that the cardiac and renal failure that caused his death was a result of an HIV infection contracted from a blood transfusion during his 1983 triple-bypass surgery. Isaac’s doctors are believed to have convinced him to keep the infection a secret. He was survived by his two children and his second wife.
During his lifetime, Isaac Asimov’s work earned him a number of awards including the Hugo and Nebula awards. A crater on planet Mars, and an asteroid 5020 Asimov, are named after him. Apart from his works, Isaac Asimov left behind a rich treasure of quotations and philosophical tidbits that writers and orators from across the world love to quote from.
“It is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be.” – Isaac Asimov