Arthur C. Clarke
Credit: Andrew Holbrooke/Corbis

The word “visionary” gets tossed around a lot, but it really fits Arthur C. Clarke — though the author, who died early Wednesday at 90, would have disdained it out of modesty. Still, the creator of such sci-fi landmarks as 2001: A Space Odyssey and Childhood’s End really did imagine a future destiny for humanity and, through the influence of his writing, helped move us in that direction. Astronauts have credited him with inspiring them to become space travelers, and telecommunications pioneers have credited him with envisioning the global satellite networks we have today. And millions more have read his books, or watched Stanley Kubrick’s groundbreaking film version of 2001, and pondered mankind’s future.

USA Today
has a fine tribute to Clarke today, noting that his speculative work was grounded in his academic study of math and physics, and recommending as must-reads among his 80 books Childhood’s End (a much-emulated tale about alien visitors who eradicate human misery at the cost of human liberty), The City and the Stars, The Nine Billion Names of God (a short story collection), 2001 (his novelization of the movie, based in turn on his short story “The Sentinel”), and Rendezvous with Rama (a novel that won pretty much every sci-fi award imaginable). Clarke fans should also visit the website of the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation, which continues to promote his ideals of using science and technology to improve people’s lives. Clarke believed that, through applied science, anything that could be imagined could be achieved. He made readers and moviegoers believe it, too.

addCredit(“Arthur C. Clarke: Andrew Holbrooke/Corbis”)