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Isaac Asimov

He also wrote hundreds of short stories, including the social science fiction novelette 'Nightfall', which in 1964 was voted the best short science fiction story of all time by the Science Fiction Writers of America.

Most of his popular science books explain concepts in a historical way, going as far back as possible to a time when the science in question was at its simplest stage.

He wrote on numerous other scientific and non-scientific topics, such as chemistry, astronomy, mathematics, history, biblical exegesis, and literary criticism.

Asimov's family name derives from the first part of ozimyi khleb (озимый хлеб), meaning the winter grain (specifically rye) in which his great-great-great-grandfather dealt, with the Russian patronymic ending -ov added.[11]

When the family arrived in the United States in 1923 and their name had to be spelled in the Latin alphabet, Asimov's father spelled it with an S, believing this letter to be pronounced like Z (as in German), and so it became Asimov.[12][c]

Asimov wrote of his father, 'My father, for all his education as an Orthodox Jew, was not Orthodox in his heart', noting that 'he didn't recite the myriad prayers prescribed for every action, and he never made any attempt to teach them to me'.[17]

Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, Asimov taught himself to read at the age of five (and later taught his sister to read as well, enabling her to enter school in the second grade).[25]

The candy stores sold newspapers and magazines, a fact that Asimov credited as a major influence in his lifelong love of the written word, as it presented him with an unending supply of new reading material as a child that he could not have otherwise afforded.

Graduating at 15, he attended the City College of New York for several days before accepting a scholarship at Seth Low Junior College, a branch of Columbia University in Downtown Brooklyn designed to absorb some of the Jewish and Italian-American students who applied to Columbia College, then the institution's primary undergraduate school for men with quotas on the number of admissions from those ethnic groups.

In between earning these two degrees, Asimov spent three years during World War II working as a civilian chemist at the Philadelphia Navy Yard's Naval Air Experimental Station, living in the Walnut Hill section of West Philadelphia from 1942 to 1945.[38][39]

In 1946, a bureaucratic error caused his military allotment to be stopped, and he was removed from a task force days before it sailed to participate in Operation Crossroads nuclear weapons tests at Bikini Atoll.[41]

By 1952, however, he was making more money as a writer than from the university, and he eventually stopped doing research, confining his university role to lecturing students.[g]

In the third volume of his autobiography, he recalls a childhood desire to own a magazine stand in a New York City Subway station, within which he could enclose himself and listen to the rumble of passing trains while reading.[64]

In his later years, Asimov found enjoyment traveling on cruise ships, beginning in 1972 when he viewed the Apollo 17 launch from a cruise ship.[65]

In a discussion with James Randi at CSICon 2016 regarding the founding of CSICOP, Kendrick Frazier said that Asimov was 'a key figure in the Skeptical movement who is less well known and appreciated today, but was very much in the public eye back then.'

The family chose not to disclose that these were complications of AIDS, because within two days, on April 8, Arthur Ashe announced his own HIV infection (also contracted in 1983 from a blood transfusion during heart bypass surgery), which resulted in much public controversy;[92][93]

That means that my idea of a pleasant time is to go up to my attic, sit at my electric typewriter (as I am doing right now), and bang away, watching the words take shape like magic before my eyes.

Following the brief orbit of the first man-made satellite Sputnik I by the USSR in 1957, his production of nonfiction, particularly popular science books, greatly increased, with a consequent drop in his science fiction output.

From then until his death, Asimov published several more sequels and prequels to his existing novels, tying them together in a way he had not originally anticipated, making a unified series.

Furthermore, the Oxford English Dictionary credits his science fiction for introducing into the English language the words 'robotics', 'positronic' (an entirely fictional technology), and 'psychohistory' (which is also used for a different study on historical motivations).

began as a science fiction writer, and for the first eleven years of my literary career I wrote nothing but science fiction stories Asimov became a science fiction fan in 1929,[101]

At age 18 he joined the Futurians science fiction fan club, where he made friends who went on to become science fiction writers or editors.[104]

Campbell rejected it on 22 July but—in 'the nicest possible letter you could imagine'—encouraged him to continue writing, promising that Asimov might sell his work after another year and a dozen stories of practice.[101]

'Nightfall' is an archetypal example of social science fiction, a term he created to describe a new trend in the 1940s, led by authors including him and Heinlein, away from gadgets and space opera and toward speculation about the human condition.[115]

Asimov left science fiction fandom and no longer read new magazines, and might have left the industry had not Heinlein and de Camp been coworkers and previously sold stories continued to appear.[116]

By the end of the war Asimov was earning as a writer an amount equal to half of his Navy Yard salary, even after a raise, but Asimov still did not believe that writing could support him, his wife, and future children.[119][120]

They promulgated a set of rules of ethics for robots (see Three Laws of Robotics) and intelligent machines that greatly influenced other writers and thinkers in their treatment of the subject.

Asimov notes in his introduction to the short story collection The Complete Robot (1982) that he was largely inspired by the almost relentless tendency of robots up to that time to fall consistently into a Frankenstein plot in which they destroyed their creators.

With Asimov's collaboration, in about 1977, Harlan Ellison wrote a screenplay of I, Robot that Asimov hoped would lead to 'the first really adult, complex, worthwhile science fiction film ever made'.

The 2004 movie I, Robot, starring Will Smith, was based on an unrelated script by Jeff Vintar titled Hardwired, with Asimov's ideas incorporated later after the rights to Asimov's title were acquired.[121]

(The title was not original to Asimov but had previously been used for a story by Eando Binder.) Also, one of Asimov's robot short stories, 'The Bicentennial Man', was expanded into a novel The Positronic Man by Asimov and Robert Silverberg, and this was adapted into the 1999 movie Bicentennial Man, starring Robin Williams.[79]

Fearing a prejudicial reaction from his graduate school evaluation board at Columbia University, Asimov asked his editor that it be released under a pseudonym, yet it appeared under his own name.

The early 1950s also saw Gnome Press publish one collection of Asimov's positronic robot stories as I, Robot and his Foundation stories and novelettes as the three books of the Foundation trilogy.

During the late 1950s and 1960s, Asimov substantially decreased his fiction output (he published only four adult novels between 1957's The Naked Sun and 1982's Foundation's Edge, two of which were mysteries).

Asimov explained in The Rest of the Robots that he had been unable to write substantial fiction since the summer of 1958, and observers understood him as saying that his fiction career had ended, or was permanently interrupted.[135]

I was overcome by the ardent desire to write popular science for an America that might be in great danger through its neglect of science, and a number of publishers got an equally ardent desire to publish popular science for the same reason'.[136]

The column was ostensibly dedicated to popular science but Asimov had complete editorial freedom, and wrote about contemporary social issues[citation needed]

The popularity of his science books and the income he derived from them allowed him to give up most academic responsibilities and become a full-time freelance writer.[141]

He encouraged other science fiction writers to write popular science, stating in 1967 that 'the knowledgeable, skillful science writer is worth his weight in contracts', with 'twice as much work as he can possibly handle'.[142]

He regretted, however, that he had less time for fiction—causing dissatisfied readers to send him letters of complaint—stating in 1969 that 'In the last ten years, I've done a couple of novels, some collections, a dozen or so stories, but that's nothing'.[136]

While acknowledging the Oxford Dictionary reference, he incorrectly states that the word was first printed about one-third of the way down the first column of page 100, Astounding Science Fiction, March 1942 printing of his short story 'Runaround'.[148][149]

Asimov coined the term 'psychohistory' in his Foundation stories to name a fictional branch of science which combines history, sociology, and mathematical statistics to make general predictions about the future behavior of very large groups of people, such as the Galactic Empire.

Complete with maps and tables, the guide goes through the books of the Bible in order, explaining the history of each one and the political influences that affected it, as well as biographical information about the important characters.

He published two full-length mystery novels, and wrote 66 stories about the Black Widowers, a group of men who met monthly for dinner, conversation, and a puzzle.

He got the idea for the Widowers from his own association in a stag group called the Trap Door Spiders and all of the main characters (with the exception of the waiter, Henry, who he admitted resembled Wodehouse's Jeeves) were modeled after his closest friends.[158]

According to Asimov, the most essential element of humor is an abrupt change in point of view, one that suddenly shifts focus from the important to the trivial, or from the sublime to the ridiculous.[159][160]

However, by 2016, some of Asimov's behavior towards women was described as sexual harassment and cited as an example of historically problematic behavior by men in science fiction communities.[162]

In it they offer advice on how to maintain a positive attitude and stay productive when dealing with discouragement, distractions, rejection, and thick-headed editors.

Asimov corrected himself with a follow-up essay to TV Guide claiming that despite its inaccuracies, Star Trek was a fresh and intellectually challenging science fiction television show.

If I had the critic's mentality (which I emphatically don't) I would sit down and try to analyze my stories, work out the factors that make some more successful than others, cultivate those factors, and simply explode with excellence. But

(Asimov only used an outline once, later describing it as 'like trying to play the piano from inside a straitjacket'.) After correcting the draft by hand, he retyped the document as the final copy and only made one revision with minor editor-requested changes;

After disliking making multiple revisions of 'Black Friar of the Flame', Asimov refused to make major, second, or non-editorial revisions ('like chewing used gum'), stating that 'too large a revision, or too many revisions, indicate that the piece of writing is a failure.

His words do not easily lend themselves to traditional literary criticism because he has the habit of centering his fiction on plot and clearly stating to his reader, in rather direct terms, what is happening in his stories and why it is happening.

Asimov's tendency to contort his timelines is perhaps most apparent in his later novel Nemesis, in which one group of characters lives in the 'present' and another group starts in the 'past', beginning 15 years earlier and gradually moving toward the time period of the first group.[citation needed]

Asimov attributed the lack of romance and sex in his fiction to the 'early imprinting' from starting his writing career when he had never been on a date and 'didn't know anything about girls'.[106]

The second part (of three) of the novel is set on an alien world with three sexes, and the sexual behavior of these creatures is extensively depicted.

Asimov once explained that his reluctance to write about aliens came from an incident early in his career when Astounding's editor John Campbell rejected one of his science fiction stories because the alien characters were portrayed as superior to the humans.

In the Hugo Award-winning novelette 'Gold', Asimov describes an author, clearly based on himself, who has one of his books (The Gods Themselves) adapted into a 'compu-drama', essentially photo-realistic computer animation.

The director criticizes the fictionalized Asimov ('Gregory Laborian') for having an extremely nonvisual style, making it difficult to adapt his work, and the author explains that he relies on ideas and dialogue rather than description to get his points across.[216]

His later novels, written with more female characters but in essentially the same prose style as his early science-fiction stories, brought this matter to a wider audience.

In the Asimov universe, because it was conceived a long time ago, and because its author abhors confusion, there are no computers whose impact is worth noting, no social complexities, no genetic engineering, aliens, arcologies, multiverses, clones, sin or sex;

However, some of his robot stories, including the earliest ones, featured the character Susan Calvin, a forceful and intelligent woman who regularly out-performed her male colleagues.[217]

He did not oppose religious conviction in others, but he frequently railed against superstitious and pseudoscientific beliefs that tried to pass themselves off as genuine science.

As his books Treasury of Humor and Asimov Laughs Again record, Asimov was willing to tell jokes involving God, Satan, the Garden of Eden, Jerusalem, and other religious topics, expressing the viewpoint that a good joke can do more to provoke thought than hours of philosophical discussion.[159][160]

He did, however, continue to identify himself as a nonobservant Jew, as stated in his introduction to Jack Dann's anthology of Jewish science fiction, Wandering Stars: 'I attend no services and follow no ritual and have never undergone that curious puberty rite, the bar mitzvah.

Likewise he said about religious education: 'I would not be satisfied to have my kids choose to be religious without trying to argue them out of it, just as I would not be satisfied to have them decide to smoke regularly or engage in any other practice I consider detrimental to mind or body.'[225]

I think he would prefer an honest and righteous atheist to a TV preacher whose every word is God, God, God, and whose every deed is foul, foul, foul.[226]

Asimov's impression was that the 1960s' counterculture heroes had ridden an emotional wave which, in the end, left them stranded in a 'no-man's land of the spirit' from which he wondered if they would ever return.[230]

Because of his academic background, the bureau briefly considered Asimov as a possible candidate for known Soviet spy ROBPROF, but found nothing suspicious in his life or background.[232]

In his third autobiography, Asimov stated his opposition to the creation of a Jewish state, on the grounds that he was opposed to the concept of nation-states in general, and supported the notion of a single humanity.

Furthermore, he believed that homosexuality must be considered a 'moral right' on population grounds, as must all consenting adult sexual activity that does not lead to reproduction.[234]

Asimov's defense of civil applications of nuclear power even after the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant incident damaged his relations with some of his fellow liberals.

he states that although he would prefer living in 'no danger whatsoever' than near a nuclear reactor, he would still prefer a home near a nuclear power plant than in a slum on Love Canal or near 'a Union Carbide plant producing methyl isocyanate', the latter being a reference to the Bhopal disaster.[234]

In the closing years of his life, Asimov blamed the deterioration of the quality of life that he perceived in New York City on the shrinking tax base caused by the middle-class flight to the suburbs, though he continued to support high taxes on the middle class to pay for social programs.

His last nonfiction book, Our Angry Earth (1991, co-written with his long-time friend, science fiction author Frederik Pohl), deals with elements of the environmental crisis such as overpopulation, oil dependence, war, global warming, and the destruction of the ozone layer.[239][240]

In response to being presented by Bill Moyers with the question 'What do you see happening to the idea of dignity to human species if this population growth continues at its present rate?', Asimov responded:

(Tolkien said that he enjoyed Asimov's science fiction.[243]) He acknowledged other writers as superior to himself in talent, saying of Harlan Ellison, 'He is (in my opinion) one of the best writers in the world, far more skilled at the art than I am.'[244]

This stated that Asimov was required to insist that Clarke was the best science fiction writer in the world (reserving second-best for himself), while Clarke was required to insist that Asimov was the best science writer in the world (reserving second-best for himself).[245]

Thus, the dedication in Clarke's book Report on Planet Three (1972) reads: 'In accordance with the terms of the Clarke-Asimov treaty, the second-best science writer dedicates this book to the second-best science-fiction writer.'

He preferred to read the former to latter because 'I read every [science fiction] story keenly aware that it might be worse than mine, in which case I had no patience with it, or that it might be better, in which case I felt miserable'.[128]

John Jenkins, who has reviewed the vast majority of Asimov's written output, once observed, 'It has been pointed out that most science fiction writers since the 1950s have been affected by Asimov, either modeling their style on his or deliberately avoiding anything like his style.'[251]

His almost 500 books—which he wrote as a specialist, a knowledgeable authority, or just an excited layman—range over almost all conceivable subjects: the sciences, history, literature, religion, and of course, science fiction.'[253]

Through a series of developments of absorbing lack of interest (as far as these pages are concerned), I found myself doing research on a biochemical topic.

and including all titles, charts, and edited collections, there may be currently over 500 books in Asimov's bibliography— as well as his individual short stories, individual essays, and criticism.

For his 100th, 200th, and 300th books (based on his personal count), Asimov published Opus 100 (1969), Opus 200 (1979), and Opus 300 (1984), celebrating his writing.[168][169][170]

An online exhibit in West Virginia University Libraries' virtually complete Asimov Collection displays features, visuals, and descriptions of some of his over 600 books, games, audio recordings, videos, and wall charts.

Book jackets and autographs are presented online along with descriptions and images of children's books, science fiction art, multimedia, and other materials in the collection.[262]

Centre for Ethics, University of Toronto

First and foremost, given the Hippocratic duties of healthcare providers to ‘do no harm’, it is essential that the role of these emerging technologies in medicine is carefully scrutinized by practitioners that understand and can think critically about them.

Failing to prepare future physicians to respond and adapt to novel AI applications in medicine may lead to dire consequences including but not limited to decreased quality of care, exploitation of patient data, and widened health disparities.

She has diverse interests in health technology, quality improvement, and health equity, and has explored these by leading several research projects at hospital and university sites.

Our mission is to provide medical students with insight on how AI is being applied to healthcare as well as the challenges it raises (especially ethically), connect students with opportunities and resources in the Toronto health-tech space, and advocate for greater integration of AI into the medical curriculum to prepare future doctors for the healthcare environment of tomorrow.

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