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24 September 2014

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You are in: Somerset > Coast > Point 5: Arthur C Clarke

Arthur C Clarke

Point 5: Arthur C Clarke

Turn left into Blenheim Road. Continue along there for approximately 50 metres. If you now look to your left, you should see a blue plaque on the wall of 13 Blenheim Road.

Plaque commemorating Arthur C Clarke's birthplace

Sir Arthur Charles Clarke, author, inventor, and writer of the science fiction novel 2001: A Space Odyssey, was born at 4 Blenheim Road on 16 December 1917.

The address was later changed to 13 Blenheim Road when the road was extended.

Arthur C Clarke's achievements bridge the arts and sciences - his works range from scientific discovery to science fiction, and from technical application to entertainment.

Somerset life

Although Arthur C Clarke was born in Minehead, when World War I ended in 1918 and his father was discharged, the family moved to a farm called Beetham, near Chard.

As a boy, he enjoyed stargazing and enthusiastically read old American science fiction magazines.

He remembers having his first experience with global communication when he worked at the Bishops Lydeard Post Office in his teens.

"I was night operator for quite a long time at Bishops Lydeard, and one night there was a call from New York - very rare in those days.

"The call came by radio, of course; it was long before there was any telephonic cable.

13 Blenheim Road

"The operator in Taunton must have detected me listening in, and told me to unplug. I was probably weakening the signal."

After attending schools in his home county, he moved to London in 1936 and pursued his early interest in space sciences by joining the British Interplanetary Society (BIS).

He started to contribute to the BIS Bulletin and began to write science fiction.

World War II interrupted in 1939 and he joined the Royal Air Force (RAF) as a radar specialist.

He was involved in the early warning radar defence system which contributed to the Royal Air Force's success during the Battle of Britain.

After the war, he obtained a first class degree in mathematics and physics at King's College, London.


Maybe his most important contribution is the idea that geostationary satellites would be ideal telecommunications relays.

In 1945, the British magazine Wireless World published his landmark technical paper: Extra-Terrestrial Relays - Can Rocket Stations Give Worldwide Radio Coverage?

In it, he first set out the principles of satellite communication with satellites in geostationary orbits - an idea that was realised 25 years later.

Clarke's work led to the global satellite systems in use today. In fact, the geostationary orbit at 36,000 kilometers above the equator is named The Clarke Orbit by the International Astronomical Union.

In 1954, Clarke wrote to Dr Harry Wexler, then chief of the Scientific Services Division of the US Weather Bureau, about satellite applications for weather forecasting.

From these communications, a new branch of meteorology was born, and Dr Wexler became the driving force in using rockets and satellites for meteorological research and operations.


In the early 1940s while he was in the RAF, Arthur C Clarke began selling his science-fiction stories to magazines. He worked briefly as Assistant Editor of Science Abstracts before devoting himself to writing full-time from 1951.

In 1964, he started to work with the noted film producer Stanley Kubrick on a science-fiction film script.

2001: A Space Odyssey was written concurrently with the film version, and was loosely inspired by Clarke's short story The Sentinel.

Kubrick approached Arthur C Clarke about writing a novel for the purpose of making "the proverbial good science-fiction movie" - it resulted in one of the truly unique collaborations in media history.

Four years later, he shared an Oscar nomination with Kubrick for the film version of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Arthur C Clarke has written numerous other books, including the Rama novels and several sequels to 2001, and many short stories, including The Star, which is about a Jesuit priest's spiritual dilemma.

Arthur C Clarke is also known for his television programmes Arthur C Clarke's Mysterious World (1981) and Arthur C Clarke's World of Strange Powers (1984).

And finally...

Arthur C Clarke has lived in Colombo, Sri Lanka, since 1956. This inspired the locale for The Fountains of Paradise, in which he describes a space elevator.

This, he figured, would ultimately be his legacy, more so than geostationary satellites, once space elevators make space shuttles obsolete.

In 1988, he was diagnosed with post-polio syndrome and has since been confined to a wheelchair. He was knighted in 2000.

He died in March 2008 aged 90 in his home in Sri Lanka.

As a result of Arthur C Clarke's achievements, there is an asteroid named in his honour, 4923 Clarke, as well as a species of Ceratopsian dinosaur, Serendipaceratops arthurcclarkei, discovered in Inverloch, Australia.

Turn around and cross the road. Go into Blenheim Gardens by the gate opposite.

last updated: 14/05/2008 at 12:39
created: 30/06/2005

You are in: Somerset > Coast > Point 5: Arthur C Clarke

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