English novelist, journalist, sociologist, and historian,
whose science-fiction stories have been filmed many times.
Wells's best known works are THE TIME MACHINE (1895),
THE INVISIBLE MAN (1897), and THE WAR OF THE WORLDS (1898).
Wells wrote over a hundred of books, about fifty of them
"No one would have believed, in the last years of
the nineteenth century, that human affairs were being
watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than
man's and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied
themselves about their affairs they were scrutinized and
studied, parhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope
might scrutinize the transient creatures that swarm and
multiply in a drop of water." (from War of the Worlds)
Along with George Orwell's Nineteen-Eighty-Four and Aldous
Huxley's Brave New World, which was an pessimistic answer
to scientific optimism, Wells's novels are among the classical
works of science-fiction, but his romantic and enthusiastic
conception of technology later turned more doubtfull.
His bitter side is seen early in the novel BOON (1915),
which was a parody of Henry James.
H.G. Wells was born in Bromley, Kent. His father was a
shopkeeper and a professional cricketer, and his mother
served from time to time as a housekeeper at the nearby
estate of Uppark. His father's business failed and to
elevate the family to middle-class status, Wells was apprenticed
like his brothers to a draper, spending the years between
1880 and 1883 in Windsor and Southsea. Later he recorded
these years in KIPPS (1905). In the story Arthur Kipps
is raised by his aunt and uncle. Kipps is also apprenticed
to a draper. After learning that he has been left a fortune,
Kipps enters the upper-class society, which Wells describes
with sharp social criticism.
In 1883 Wells became a teacher/pupil at Midhurst Grammar
Scool. He obtained a scholarship to the Normal School
of Science in London and studied there biology under T.H.
Huxley. However, his interest faltered and in 1887 he
left without a degree. He taught in private schools for
four years, not taking his B.S. degree until 1890. Next
year he settled in London, married his cousin Isabel and
continued his career as a teacher in a correspondence
college. From 1893 Wells became a full-time writer.
After some years Wells left Isabel for one of his brightest
students, Amy Catherine, whom he married in 1895. As a
novelist Wells made his debut with The Time Machine, a
parody of English class division and a satirical warning
that human progress is not inevitable. The Time Traveller
lands in the year 802701 and finds two people: the Eloi,
weak and little, who live above ground, and the Morlocks,
carnivorous creatures that live below ground. Much of
the realism of the story was achieved by carefully studied
The basic principles of the machine contained materials
regarding time as the fourth dimension - years later Albert
Einstein published his theory of the four dimensional
continuum of space-time. The work was followed by such
science-fiction classics as THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU (1896),
in which a mad scientist transforms animals into human
creatures, The Invisible Man (1897), a Faustian story
of a scientist who has tampered with nature in pursuit
of superhuman powers, and The War of the Worlds (1898),
a novel of an invasion of Martians. The story appeared
at a time when Percival Lowell's "observations"
of "canals" on Mars arose speculations that
there could be life on the Red Planet. Inspite of the
technological superiority of the Martians, their plan
fails - they start to die off because they have no immunity
to the bacteria of Earth. THE FIRST MEN ON THE MOON (1901)
was prophetic description of the methodology of space
flight, and THE WAR IN THE AIR (1908) was a hybrid that
places Kipps-like Cockney hero in the context of a catastrophic
aerial war. Altough Wells's novels were highly entertaining,
he also tried to pave way for a wiser attitude about the
future of the mankind.
Dissatisfied with his literary work, Wells moved into
the novel genre, with LOVE AND MR. LEWISHAM (1900). He
strenghtened his reputation as a serous writer with Kipps,
TONO-BUNGAY (1909), and THE HISTORY OF MR. POLLY (1909),
an ode to vanished England. He also published critical
pamphlets attacking the Victorian social order, among
them ANTICIPATIONS (1901), MANKIND IN THE MAKING (1903),
and A MODERN UTOPIA (1905).
Passionate concern for society led Wells to join in 1903
the socialist Fabian Society in London, but he soon quarreled
with the society's leaders, among them George Bernard
Shaw. This experience was basis for his novel THE NEW
MACHIAVELLI (1911), where he drew portraits of the noted
Fabians. At the outbreak of war in 1914, Wells was involved
in a love affair with the young English author Rebecca
West, which influenced his work and life deeply.
"Nothing could have been more obvious to the people
of the early twentieth century than the rapidity with
which war was becoming impossible. And as certainly they
did not see it. They did not see it until the atomic bombs
burst in their fumbling hands." (from The World Set
After WW I Wells published several non-fiction works,
among them THE OUTLINE OF HISTORY (1920), THE SCIENCE
OF LIFE (1929-39), written in collaboration with Sir Julian
Huxley and George Philip Wells, and EXPERIMENT IN AUTOBIOGRAPHY
(1934). At this time Wells had gained the status as a
popular celebrity, and he continued to write prolifically.
In 1917 he was a member of Reserch Committee for the League
of Nations and published several books about the world
organization. In the early 1920s he was a labour candidate
for Parliament. Between the years 1924 and 1933 Wells
livend mainly in France. From 1934 to 1946 he was the
International president of PEN. In 1934 he had discussions
with both Stalin and Roosevelt, trying to recruit them
to his world-saving schemes. However, he despaired of
the whole business when the global war broke the peace
for the second time.
"The professional military mind is by necessity an
inferior and unimaginative mind; no man of high intellectual
quality would willingly imprison his gifts in such calling."
(from The Outline of History, 1920)
In THE HOLY TERROR (1939) Wells studied the psychological
development of a modern dictator based on the careers
of Stalin, Mussolini, and Hitler. In 1938 Orson Welles'
Mercury Theater radio broadcast, based on The War of the
Worlds, caused a panic which spread across the United
States. Wells lived through World War II in his house
on Regent's Park, refusing to let the blitz drive him
out of London. His last book, MIND AT THE END OF ITS TETHER
(1945), expressed pessimism about mankind's future prospects.
Wells died in London on August 13. 1946.