Isaac Asimov Biography


(Masterpieces of American Literature)
ph_0111207059-Asimov.jpg Isaac Asimov. Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Asimov was born in the village of Petrovichi, in the Soviet Union, on January 2, 1920, the first child of Judah Asimov and Anna Rachel Berman Asimov. The Asimovs emigrated to the United States in 1923 and settled in Brooklyn, where Asimov’s father owned a series of candy stores. Asimov taught himself to read at the age of five and was regarded as a child prodigy, both for his ability to learn and for his prodigious memory.

After skipping several grades and completing junior high school in two years instead of three, Asimov enrolled in the Boys’ High School of Brooklyn, a selective, prestigious school noted for mathematics. He entered at age twelve and a half, two and a half years younger than his fellow students, and continued to be sheltered from the lives of his fellows, particularly girls.

Asimov then entered Columbia University, intending to become a doctor. After he had to kill and dissect a cat in anatomy class, he switched to chemistry and after graduation continued the study of chemistry at Columbia. He had obtained his M.S. and was on his way to his Ph.D. when the United States entered World War II. Asimov interrupted his studies to work at the U.S. Navy yards in Philadelphia (with Robert A. Heinlein and L. Sprague de Camp). At that time he married Gertrude Blugerman, with whom he would have two children: David, born in 1951, and Robyn, born in 1955. He served less than a year in the Army before resuming his studies at Columbia, earned his Ph.D. in 1948, and after a year of postgraduate work accepted a...

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(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Professor George G. Simpson of Harvard University called Asimov “one of our natural wonders and national resources.” Simpson was referring to Asimov’s science popularizations, but Asimov always viewed himself as a science-fiction writer, and his science-fiction writing, noted for its clarity, rationality, and scope, was a foundation for later science fiction. It will be remembered and read long after his other works are forgotten.

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(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Brought to the United States when he was three, Isaac Asimov was reared in New York by his Jewish parents and was taught to take education seriously, especially science. A child prodigy, he was graduated from high school at fifteen and went on to earn his B.S., M.A., and Ph.D. in chemistry at Columbia University, with a brief interruption for noncombatant military service at the end of World War II. Although he failed to achieve his dream, and that of his parents, to become a doctor, he did join the faculty of the medical school at Boston University, where he became an Associate Professor of Biochemistry before turning to full-time writing. A science-fiction fan since his early teens, he published his first story at eighteen. After...

(The entire section is 239 words.)


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Isaac Asimov emigrated to the United States with his Russian Jewish parents when he was three years old; they settled in Brooklyn, New York. Unsure of his actual birthday, due to poor record keeping in Russia at the time, he claimed January 2, 1920. Encountering early science-fiction magazines at his father’s candy store, where he began working when his mother was pregnant with his brother, led him to follow dual careers as scientist and author. Asimov was the eldest of three children; he had a sister, Marcia, and a brother, Stanley. He considered himself an American and never learned to speak Russian; in later life he studied Hebrew and Yiddish. In high school, Asimov wrote a regular column for his school’s newspaper. He entered Columbia University at age fifteen, and by age eighteen, he sold his first story to the magazine Amazing Stories.

Graduating from Columbia with a B.S. in chemistry in 1939, Asimov applied to all five New York City medical schools and was turned down. He was also rejected for the master’s program at Columbia but convinced the department to accept him on probation. He earned his master’s degree in chemistry in 1941. His doctoral program was interrupted by his service in World War II as a junior chemist at the Philadelphia Naval Yard from 1942 through 1945. He worked there with fellow science-fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein.

Asimov earned his doctorate in biochemistry in 1948, and after graduation he...

(The entire section is 425 words.)