Known since the 1950’s as the dean of science fiction, Robert A. Heinlein was the top-selling author of the golden age of pulp-magazine science fiction (1930’s-1940’s), the first to sell science fiction to the “slick” magazines (prestigious glossy-paper periodicals such as The Saturday Evening Post), and the first major science-fiction author to write for film.
Heinlein’s science fiction is of the nuts-and-bolts variety, in which space travel and other future technologies are presented realistically; their engineering is worked out in detail, yet that detail does not intrude on the narrative. Examples of Heinlein’s technologies include the space suit, descriptions of which borrow from his own wartime research at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. In fact, his research led to the development of space suits long after he had described them. (Also, he had envisioned and then detailed the water bed.)
Heinlein received the Hugo Award for best science-fiction novel four times, and Science Fiction Writers of America honored him with its first Grand Master award for lifetime achievement. His fiction introduced several words and phrases to the English language, including “free fall” for zero gravity, “waldo” for a mechanical arm (named after a Heinlein character), and his acronym TANSTAAFL (There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch) for a popular phrase, perhaps borrowed from Rudyard Kipling. The acronym became a byword for libertarians and economists such as Milton Friedman.