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Isaac Asimov

Born: Petrovichi

Isaac Asimov was an American writer and editor of science fiction and nonfiction. A phenomenally prolific author, Asimov produced more than 300 books and won numerous awards for his science writing.

He was born in Petrovichi, Russia, on Jan. 2, 1920, and was taken to the United States at the age of three. His interest in science led him to study chemistry at Columbia University (B.S., 1939; M.A., 1941; Ph.D., 1948) and to teach biochemistry at Boston University.

Tantalized at an early age by the science-fiction magazines in his father's candy store, by age 18 Asimov had published his first story, "Marooned off Vesta," in Amazing Stories. Of his many later stories, "Nightfall" (1941) remains his most admired work. His first novel, Pebble in the Sky, was published in 1950. In his writing Asimov introduced several concepts-such as the "three laws of robotics" codifying robot behavior-that were adopted by other science-fiction writers. His lively robot stories are collected in I, Robot (1950), The Caves of Steel (1954), The Naked Sun (1956), and The Rest of the Robots (1964). His widely read Foundation trilogy (1951-1953) recounts the collapse of an empire, stressing ideas rather than battles. It was recognized as the "best all-time series" by the Hugo Science Fiction Achievement Award committee in 1966. The Gods Themselves (1972) won Hugo and Nebula awards.

Beginning with David Starr, Space Ranger (1952), Asimov wrote several science-fiction novels under the pseudonym Paul French, and with The Death Dealers (1958) he began producing mystery novels. After 1960 he concentrated on nonfiction, displaying a gift for explaining complex scientific concepts to a lay audience. He published two autobiographical works, In Memory Yet Green (1979) and In Joy Still Felt (1980). In his later years Asimov produced Foundation's Edge (1982), a sequel to the Foundation trilogy, which won him the Hugo in 1983. Foundation and Earth (1986), Prelude to Foundation (1988), and Nemesis (1989) are some of his later works. In 1994 Asimov published his memoirs I, Asimov: A Memoir. Asimov died on April 6, 1992, in New York City.

Biorgraphy written by Jerome Stern for the Encyclopedia Americana. For more information about this online reference, visit Grolier.com.