Arthur C. Clarke was the father of British science-fiction and a global figure of immense importance to the defining literary genre of the 20th century.
He came to prominence shortly after the Second World War with an article predicting geostationary satellites that would make global broadcasting and worldwide television a reality, decades before they became possible.
His far-sightedness led him to write dozens of science fiction novels, of which perhaps the most famous is 2001: A Space Odyssey — made into a spectacular film by the late director Stanley Kubrick.
Clarke and Kubrick created a vision of outer space that was more than just technology but had a mythic quality that probed the philosophy of the universe.
The original story was a short novella dealing with the idea of man’s evolution being inspired by the intervention of a distant God-like extra-terrestrial civilization.
In the film, the computer Hal, which went mad and nearly killed the astronauts on board a mission to Jupiter, was widely believed to have been derived by moving the letters IBM one step backwards. In an interview with me in the 1990s Clarke denied that this was so, and said it had merely been an amusing coincidence.
His own favorite work was Songs of Distant Earth — a nostalgic story of human colonists in a far-off part of the galaxy hankering after their origins.
Born in Minehead, Somerset, Clarke suffered as a young man from polio, which left him slightly disabled. After his success as a novelist, he moved to Sri Lanka where he set up home with several local retainers, whom he treated as family. One of his great pleasures was scuba diving, which he undertook while already in advanced years, claiming that it gave him a feeling of weightlessness he knew he would never experience as an astronaut.
To the end of his life he never lost his sense of wonder, his sense of humor or his strong Somerset accent. While sorely disappointed with the failure of Man’s space flight to achieve the lofty goals that he had foreseen, he always retained an optimism about the universe and man’s place in it.