H.G. Wells: His Life and Work

The Father of Science Fiction

HG Wells
De Agostini / Biblioteca Ambrosiana / De Agostini Picture Library / Getty Images. De Agostini / Biblioteca Ambrosiana / De Agostini Picture Library / Getty Images 

Herbert George Wells, more commonly known as H.G. Wells, was born on September 21, 1866. He was a prolific English writer who wrote fiction and non-fiction. Wells is most famous for his science fiction novels and is sometimes referred to as "the father of science fiction." He died on August 13, 1946.

Fast Facts: H.G. Wells

  • Full Name: Herbert George Wells
  • Occupation: Writer
  • Born: September 21, 1866 in Bromley, England
  • Died: August 13, 1946 in London, England 
  • Spouse(s): Isabel Mary Wells (1891-1894); Amy Catherine Robbins (1895-1927)
  • Children: G.P. Wells, Frank Wells, Anna-Jane Wells, Anthony West
  • Published WorksThe Time MachineThe Island of Doctor MoreauThe Wheels of ChanceThe Invisible ManThe War of the Worlds 
  • Key Accomplishments: Pioneered the science fiction genre and wrote more than 100 books during his 60+ year career. 

Early Years

H.G. Wells was born on September 21, 1866, in Bromley, England. His parents were Joseph Wells and Sarah Neal. Both worked as domestic servants before using a small inheritance to purchase a hardware store. HG Wells, known as Bertie to his family, had three older siblings. The Wells family lived in poverty for many years; the store provided a limited income due to its poor location and shabby merchandise.

At the age of seven, H.G. Wells had an accident that left him bedridden. He turned to books to pass the time, reading everything from Charles Dickens to Washington Irving. When the family store went under, Sarah went to work as a housekeeper at a large estate. It was at this estate that H.G. Wells became even more of an avid reader, picking up books from authors like Voltaire.  

At the age of 18, H.G. Wells received a scholarship that allowed him to attend the Normal School of Science, where he studied biology. He later attended London University. After graduating in 1888, he became a science teacher. His very first book, the "Textbook of Biology," was published in 1893.

Personal Life

H.G. Wells married his cousin, Isabel Mary Wells, in 1891, but left her in 1894 for one of his former students, Amy Catherine Robbins. They married in 1895. In that same year, his first fiction novel, The Time Machine, was published. It brought Wells instant fame, inspiring him to embark on a serious career as a writer.

Famous Works

H.G. Wells was a very productive writer. He authored more than 100 books during his 60+ year career. His fiction works fall into many genres, including science fiction, fantasy, dystopia, satire and tragedy. He also wrote plenty of non-fiction, including biographies, autobiographies, social commentaries and textbooks.

Some of his most famous works include his first novel, "The Time Machine," which was published in 1895, and "The Island of Doctor Moreau" (1896), "The Invisible Man" (1897) and "The War of the Worlds" (1898). All four of these books have been turned into films.

Orson Welles quite famously adapted "The War of the Worlds" into a radio play that was first broadcast on October 30, 1938. Many radio listeners, who assumed that what they were hearing was real and not a radio play, panicked at the prospect of an alien invasion and fled their homes in fear.

Death

H.G. Wells died on August 13, 1946. He was 79 years old. The exact cause of death is unknown, though some claim that he had a heart attack. His ashes were scattered at sea in Southern England near a series of three chalk formations known as Old Harry Rocks.

Impact and Legacy

H.G. Wells liked to say that he wrote "scientific romances." Today, we refer to this style of writing as science fiction. Wells' influence on this genre is so significant that he is known as "the father of science fiction" (alongside Jules Verne).

Wells was among the first to write about things like time machines and alien invasions. His most famous works have never been out of print, and their influence is still seen in modern books, films and television shows.

H.G. Wells also made a number of social and scientific predictions in his writing. He wrote about things like airplanes, space travel, the atomic bomb and even the automatic door before they existed in the real world. These prophetic imaginings are part of Wells' legacy and one of the things he is most famous for.

Quotes

H.G. Wells was no stranger to social commentary. He often commented on art, people, government, and social issues. Here are some characteristic examples:

  • "I found that, taking almost anything as a starting point and letting my thoughts play about with it, there would presently come out of the darkness, in a manner quite inexplicable, some absurd or vivid little nucleus."
  • "Humanity either makes, or breeds, or tolerates all its afflictions, great or small."
  • "If you fell down yesterday, stand up today."

Sources