Born in Bromley, England, on September 21, 1866, Herbert George Wells was raised in relative poverty by his father, Joseph Wells, a failed shopkeeper turned professional cricket player, and his mother, Sarah Neal Wells, a housekeeper. Wells, however, used his circumstances as a spur rather than a crutch, reading voraciously as a child in an effort to create a better life for himself. At sixteen, Wells became a student teacher at Midhurst Grammar School and was later awarded a scholarship to the Normal School of Science in London. T. H. Huxley, who, next to Darwin, was the foremost evolutionary theorist of his day, was Wells's biology teacher, and he helped to shape Wells's thinking about humankind's past and its future. Wells taught for three years after taking a bachelor of science degree in 1890, and a few years later he began writing full-time.
His first novel, The Time Machine, published in 1895 and hailed as one of the first great works of science fiction, was one of Wells's most popular novels and is one of his most enduring. Its success gave him the confidence to pursue his strategy of using fiction to dramatize scientific concepts such as the fourth dimension, Darwin's theory of natural selection, and Marx's theory of class struggle. In 1896, Wells published The Island of Dr. Moreau, about a scientist who experiments in breeding animals with human beings. Other well-known Wells novels include The Invisible Man (1897) and The War of the Worlds (1898), the latter of which formed the basis for Orson Welles's infamous radio broadcast on October 30, 1938. In that broadcast, which millions of listeners took seriously, Welles announced that Martians had landed on Earth.
Wells was also passionate about history and politics and developed a reputation as a reformer, joining the Fabian Society, a socialist group whose members included writer George Bernard Shaw and running for Parliament as a Labour Party candidate. As an internationally celebrated writer, he traveled to countries such as Russia, where he met with Vladimir Lenin and Josef Stalin, and the United States, where he met with President Franklin D. Roosevelt and discussed, among other topics, the implications of The Time Machine. Wells was also a supporter of the League of Nations a precursor to the United Nations serving on its Research Committee and penning books about its aims.
One of the most prolific and wide-ranging writers of the twentieth century, Wells wrote more than one hundred books, including biology textbooks, collections of short stories and literary criticism, and studies of the world economy, British imperialism, and Russian communism. He continued writing until the end of his life. Some of his later books include Guide to the New World: A Handbook of Constructive World Revolution (1941); The Outlook for Homo Sapiens (1942); Phoenix: A Summary of the Inescapable Conditions of World Reorganisation (1942); A Thesis on the Quality of Illusion in the Continuity of Individual Life of the Higher Metazoa, with Particular Reference to the Species Homo Sapiens (1942); The Conquest of Time (1942); Crux Ansata: An Indictment of the Roman Catholic Church (1944); and Mind at the End of Its Tether and The Happy Turning: A Dream of Life (1946). At the end of his life, Wells, who had lived through two world wars, became increasingly pessimistic about humanity's future. He died in London on August 13, 1946.
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