Robert A. Heinlein Biography

Robert A. Heinlein Biography

Robert A. Heinlein, along with Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov, is part of the “holy trinity” of science fiction writing. Heinlein is particularly noted for his skill at mixing hard science with fictional elements. He also uses the genre to explore a variety of socio-political issues, though many critics disagree as to exactly what his beliefs and politics were. Heinlein’s early works bear the influence of his socialist beginnings, yet others such as his novel Starship Troopers can be read as right-wing and even fascistic propaganda. And countering both of those positions are his countless works that explore radically liberal ideas of gender, race, and sexuality. Part of what made Heinlein so unique was the way he eschewed categorization and defied expectations.

Facts and Trivia

  • Heinlein’s forward-thinking novel Stranger in a Strange Land proved to have major social influence beyond the world of science fiction. The book introduced the notion of polyamorous relationships—that is to say, romantic relationships among more than two people.
  • As a young man, Heinlein became heavily involved in Upton Sinclair’s leftist social concerns and unsuccessful campaigns for elected office. At one point, Heinlein himself tried to run for office but was defeated.
  • Among Heinlein’s more unusual contributions to the world is the water bed, an idea he came up with during one of his many hospitalizations.
  • Grumbles from the Grave is a collection of Heinlein’s personal writing that was published posthumously by his widow.
  • Heinlein won an astonishing seven Hugo Awards. Of those, three were awarded retroactively for key works from his lengthy career.


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Robert A. Heinlein Robert A. Heinlein Image via

Robert Anson Heinlein was born in Butler, Missouri, on July 7, 1907, the son of Rex Ivar and Bam Lyle Heinlein. He was the third of seven children. After graduating from Kansas City Central High School in 1924, Heinlein enrolled at a branch campus of the University of Missouri near his home. His dream, however, was to follow his older brother Rex into the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis. Having solicited some fifty letters of recommendation in his behalf, Heinlein won an appointment to the academy in 1925. Commissioned with the Navy class of 1929, Lieutenant Robert Heinlein would serve only five years (as gunnery officer on several ships, including the first modern aircraft carrier, the USS Lexington) before a diagnosis of tuberculosis gave him a mandatory medical discharge in 1934.

For the next five years, Heinlein would try many occupations before becoming a writer. Pursuing graduate studies in physics at the University of California, Los Angeles, he also dabbled in architecture, mining, real estate, and state politics in Colorado and California. None of these ventures paid off, and Heinlein found himself in 1939, at the age of thirty-two, broke, with a mortgage, and virtually unemployable. A short-story contest in the science-fiction magazine Thrilling Wonder Stories offered fifty dollars. Tempted by the prize, Heinlein wrote his first story, “Life Line,” and sold it to the top science fiction magazine, Astounding Science Fiction, for twenty dollars more than the contest prize.

The editor of Astounding Science Fiction, the influential John Campbell, liked the story and wanted more. Thus, quite by accident, Heinlein became a writer. By 1941, he was supplying one-fifth of the contents of the magazine—he produced so much that Campbell insisted on publishing half of Heinlein’s stories under a pseudonym, Anson MacDonald. Heinlein was also the most popular writer in the magazine: He tied with “MacDonald” (that is, with himself) for first place in the readers’ polls.

When Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and the United States entered World War II, Heinlein immediately reported to the Navy for wartime service. He was assigned to the U.S. Naval Air Experimental...

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(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Robert Anson Heinlein was born and reared in Missouri and attended the University of Missouri before going to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis. He served in the navy for five years until he contracted pulmonary tuberculosis and was forced to retire in 1934. After graduate school at the University of California at Los Angeles, he worked at a variety of jobs, including stints as an architect, a real estate agent, an owner of a silver mine in Colorado, and a civil engineer in a navy yard in Philadelphia during World War II. After the war, he devoted himself to writing full-time. He sold his first story in 1939 to Astounding Science Fiction and contributed other stories to various magazines over the years. In the 1960’s, he became well known for the Hugo Award-winning novel Stranger in a Strange Land (1961), which became a kind of a religious guide for some hippies.

In 1966, he moved to California, where he lived for the rest of his life. In 1969, he was asked to be a guest commentator alongside Walter Cronkite on the Apollo 11 mission that put the first man on the Moon. Heinlein was active at times in Democratic and Libertarian politics, and many of his books reflect his libertarian philosophy that the government should avoid meddling in people’s lives. He was married twice, first to Leslyn McDonald and in 1948 to Virginia Doris Gerstenfeld, but had no children. He died in 1988 in Carmel, California, at the age of eighty.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Robert Anson Heinlein was born in Butler, Missouri, and grew up in Kansas City, immersed in what he thought was a Bible Belt culture. His relationship with that culture, as displayed in his fiction, would be partly adversarial.

Heinlein entered the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, from which he emerged as a naval officer in 1929. He served on one of the first aircraft carriers, the USS Lexington (1931), and the Wickes-class destroyer, the USS Roper (1933-1934). He married Eleanor Curry from his Kansas City hometown, but the marriage lasted only one year. In 1932, he married Leslyn Macdonald. Heinlein’s military career was cut short with a diagnosis of tuberculosis, leading to a medical discharge. He dabbled in mining and politics, assisting novelist Upton Sinclair’s unsuccessful bid for governor of California in 1934 and running for a seat in the California State assembly in 1938.

In 1939, Heinlein’s short story “Life Line” was published in Astounding Science Fiction, marking his first publication. A flurry of similar stories in the following years determined his career. In fact, he was so prolific that he began competing with himself: Fan polls in Astounding Science Fiction rated him number one, followed by Anson MacDonald—one of his many pseudonyms.

The year 1947 was portentous for Heinlein. First, he broke into the upper echelon of the magazine fiction market with “The Green...

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