April 06, 2005

Rest in peace, Isaac

On April 6, 1992, thirteen years ago today, one of the finest minds of the 20th century was taken from us.

Isaac Asimov is primarily known to the masses as a science fiction writer, and while he was indeed a pioneer of the genre and author of many groundbreaking works, it does him a disservice to stick him in that niche. His body of nonfiction is even more impressive than his work in science fiction, and he touched on every subject imaginable. Reading an Asimov essay can teach you about the discovery of vitamins, Lavoisier's explosion of the phlogiston theory, the innovations of the Hundred Years War, or how the parable of the Good Samaritan has been tragically misunderstood. Whenever I'm in a used bookstore, I eagerly scan their inventory of Asimov to see if they have anything I don't. His essays are almost without exception entertaining, accessible, and informative beyond belief. I owe a large part of my knowledge to him. He wasn't a discoverer, an inventor, or a theorist, but what an educator!

Politically, Asimov and I would not have gotten along, but he came by his somewhat authoritarian beliefs out of a true conviction of what would be best for the world, and I can forgive him for that. It is a true tragedy that he didn't live to see the Information Revolution, for it would have delighted him and provided him with a whole body of new material to work with.

While undergoing heart surgery in 1983, Asimov received blood that was tainted with HIV. He died from complications relating to AIDS... but he kept his condition secret to the end, to avoid panic over the safety of the blood supply. Goodbye, Dr. Asimov. I miss you.

April 6, 2005 in Science | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack