Posts Tagged ‘geosynchronous orbit’

Sir Arthur C. Clarke, 1917-2008

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

My first encounter of Arthur C. Clarke was in the 10th grade, when we were allowed to choose a book for a book report from a fairly long and broad list; Childhood’s End was one of them, and I was so excited to get to read science fiction for a book report. (There was also a Vonnegut title on the list, Cat’s Cradle, I think, which was described as “typical, if you like Vonnegut.”) I got marked down for totally omitting the whole “Overlords are devil figures” theme. I just didn’t think it was all that big a deal. (Note that the only thing I remember about the paper is that I didn’t mention the devil figures theme.)

One of his greatest contributions to the world was the idea of the geosynchronous orbit, which he mentioned in a letter published in Wireless World in April 1945, and expounded on in a full article the following October. In tribute to him, here is a scan of the letter:


A scan and OCR version of the full article can be found here.

As additional tribute, I thought I would list all the terms in Brave New Words for which his is the earliest citation:

  • farside (Fall of Moondust, 1961)
  • gee (= a unit of acceleration) (Interplanetary Flight, 1950)
  • overmind (Childhood’s End, 1953)
  • space elevator (Future Space Programs, 1975)
  • zero-g (Islands in the Sky, 1952)

And, of course, Clarke’s three laws, and Clarke orbit (a phrase that was likely coined by Keith Laumer in Clarke’s honor).