US biochemist and author of over four hundred books on science, science fiction, history, and humour.
Born near Smolensk in Russia, Isaac Asimov emigrated to the USA with his parents as a child of three. He grew up in a Brooklyn corner store and became addicted to the science-fiction magazine Astounding during its golden years. Graduating from Columbia University at nineteen, Asimov became a university teacher of biochemistry in Boston, where he was promoted full professor in 1979. By this time he had become a household name with a large number of published words to his credit; in the same year he published Opus 200, a selection from his second hundred published works. Asimov's I, Robot series of novels formulated the Three Laws of Robotics, the first of which proclaims that ‘A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm’. This law epitomizes Asimov's fundamentally benevolent view of technology. His Foundation novel series, published over the span of some thirty-five years, is similarly optimistic about the potential of science to organize society to universal benefit.
Undaunted by critics who found him dull, repetitive, and mechanical, he was encouraged by an enthusiastic public, for whom he was immensely readable. Asimov excelled at lucid exposition of scientific phenomena; Building Blocks of the Universe (1957), The Stars in their Courses (1971), A Choice of Catastrophes (1979), and The Exploding Suns: The Secrets of the Supernovas (1985) are some of his nonfiction titles. Asimov also published a history of the world, an anthology of humour, a two-volume plain man's guide to Shakespeare, and two volumes of autobiography. He wrote space stories for children under the pseudonym Paul French and composed six volumes of limericks.