A Short Obit On Arthur C. Clarke

from the rip dept

A bunch of people have been submitting the news that famed writer Arthur C. Clarke has passed away at the age of 90. You’ve probably already read about it elsewhere, so I debated whether or not it was worth posting it here as well. However, he clearly had a large impact on the technology world, and there was one interesting note in his NYTimes obit that seems to fit with what we often talk about here. While it’s widely known that he’s credited with the idea of the geostationary satellite, in later life, Clarke admitted that a lawyer convinced him not to patent the idea, saying that the concept of geostationary communications satellites was “too far-fetched to be taken seriously.” While he later joked about how he probably lost billions on that decision, the truth is that in not patenting the concept and simply publishing the idea, it’s quite likely that he did much more to speed along the concept from idea to reality. Even he admits that there was nothing “new” in what he described, it was just that he helped publicize the concept and make people realize it was feasible — and for that we should be thankful.

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Comments on “A Short Obit On Arthur C. Clarke”

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Brian (user link) says:


Definitely a big loss in the tech / sci-fi community, and really, the world. Sad, but he WAS 90, and he lived a long full life. We should all be so lucky…except the bad and evil people out there.

On a side note, I used to love his “Mysterious Universe” tv show, even though it was easily 20 years old when I’d watch it, and that was at least ten years ago.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: He Was Smart, He Was Old

…he was born and raised in the UK, then moved to Sri Lanka in 1956, and lived there until he died…

And the “sex scandal” was a random accusation by a single UK newspaper when he was knighted, that was shot down by both UK and Sri Lankan police.

…I just got trolled. I’m bad at this.

Wolferz (profile) says:

Re: Death of a Sexist

Many of his more famous works were written in the conservative dominated 50s. The period was dominated by a sense that women were not leadership material or that their place was in the home. Clark rose above this in many of his works. He depicted women in positions of power and authority.

“2001: a Space Odyssey” and “2010: The year We Make Contact” both had women with jobs that at the time those books were written women were not expected to have. In 2001 a woman was a high ranking member of an intelligence agency aboard a space station and in 2010 a woman was the commanding officer aboard the Russian space craft that carried them to the location of the Discovery.

He was wrong in his predictions of how far women would go in the 50 years following his books but there is no indication that it was because he was sexists. Quite the contrary in fact.

Mike Brown says:

He will be missed...

I was a great fan of Clarke’s work, and unlike other sci-fi authors he didn’t go steeply downhill in his later works. He will be missed.

It’s a bit of an exaggeration to say “he probably lost billions” in not patenting the idea of geostationary satellites, though (and the post does say that he only said that jokingly). Clarke did popularize the idea of geostationary communications satellites, but he did not originate it – the concept had been published by several others around twenty years earlier than his 1945 article. He wouldn’t have been able to patent it because of this prior publication.

Even if he had obtained a patent, if he had filed his patent application before his 1945 publication (as UK patent law requires), it would have valid for twenty years from the date of filing. So, it would have expired in 1965, at most a year after the first successful test of a geostationary satellite in November 1964, and decades before they became commercially successful. Of course, a UK patent wouldn’t have affected the US launch of Syncom 3, but even if he’d filed for a US patent at the same time, it would have been in effect for 17 years from its issue date, and assuming a two-year pendency, it would have expired before Syncom 3 was launched.

So, pioneer in widely publicizing communications satellites – yes. Great author – very much yes. “But for…” billionaire – no.

tmorg says:


Clarke said he moved to Sri Lankan in order to scuba dive …

Did you ever notice that we only see young boys working as servants at his home in scenes shot for the Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World TV show shot in 1979? The norm in Sri Lanka would be to have a female house maid who does the cleaning & perhaps a male servant as driver, gardner or cook but we see these boys cleaning …

He is patron of the local Surfers and Lifesavers’ Association, a position that gives him easy access to teenage beach boys. So respected is he in Sri Lanka – formerly Ceylon – that he was the first foreign celebrity to be given tax-free status by the country. He is also Chancellor of Colombo’s Moratuwa University.

Sri Lanka ranks 4th on Impunity Index
Rating: 0.452 unsolved journalist murders per 1 million inhabitants.

“I’m trying to think of the youngest boy I have ever had because of course you can’t tell here. It is very difficult here.” Clarke said boys are ready to have homosexual sex as long as they have virtually reached puberty.

But asked what was the youngest boy he ever had a liaison with, Clarke said: “Most of them had reached the age of puberty.”

Asked whether it was morally wrong, it is claimed that he replied: “No. I mean, it depends on the country. You can’t have absolute morality.”

“I think most of the damage is done by the fuss made by hysterical parents. If the kids enjoy it and don’t mind it doesn’t do any harm…there is a hysteria about the whole thing in the West. I don’t think anyone should have a relationship unless it is entirely free and open and the boy will know what he is doing.”

“I know once many many years ago when I first came here I did and the going rate was about two rupees. Money has never been part of a relationship. But of course when you are fond of them you give them money or a watch or something, whatever.”

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