January 2, 2013
Isaak Yudovich Ozimov was born in the village of Petrovichi in the Russian Federation in late 1919 or early 1920, the village did not have a doctor and did not keep birth records. Ozimov adopted Jan. 2, 1920 as his birthday, and when the family immigrated to the U.S. in 1923, a new name, Azimov.
Azimov taught himself to read by age five, and, despite his father’s disapproval, he loved the pulp magazines that his father sold at the family’s candy store, where Azimov was expected work after he delivered his paper route and when he got home from school, a routine that lasted until he graduated from college. His father, Azimov said, opened the store at 6 a.m. and closed it at 1 a.m.; Azimov inherited that work ethic.
He graduated from high school when he was 15, and attended Seth Low Junior College studying chemistry. Seth Low closed, and Azimov got his undergraduate degree from Columbia University Extension in 1n 1939. When he was not accepted in to medical school, he got a master’s degree in chemistry. After receiving his degree in 1941, he worked at the Naval Air Experimental Station in Philadelphia during World War II. He returned to Columbia University and received his doctorate in chemistry in 1948; he joined the faculty of the Boston University School of Medicine as a biochemistry professor. In a 1969 interview, Azimov recalled, “I didn't feel impelled to tell them that I'd never had any biochemistry.” And “By 1951 I was writing a textbook on biochemistry, and I finally realized the only thing I really wanted to be was a writer.”
While at Seth Low, studying chemistry, delivering newspapers and working at the family shop, he also found time to begin writing. His infatuation with the pulp magazines that his father sold, though he disapproved of them as time wasters, inspired him to submit a story. His first attempt, “Cosmic Corkscrew,” was rejected by Astounding Science Fiction in 1938, but the next year, he sold “Marooned off Vesta,” to Amazing Stories for a penny a word. He published his 32nd story in 1941, “Nightfall,” which in 1968 was named by the Science Fiction Writers of America as the best science fiction short story ever written. Selling 32 stories in two years foreshadowed a career that saw him publish thousands of articles, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Asimov_bibliography nearly 500 books. In addition to his science fiction short stories, novellas, juvenile fiction and adult novels, Azimov wrote mysteries, and critically acclaimed books about the Bible, physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, limericks, humor, Shakespeare, Gilbert and Sullivan, ancient and modern history, and many other subjects.
“Writing is more fun than ever,” he said in a 1984 interview. “The longer I write, the easier it gets.” His daily routine reflected the habits drilled into him by his father, he got up each morning at 6, began writing at 7:30, and continued until 10 p.m.
His science fiction stories are considered straightforward, plot driven, and uncomplicated by much of the social challenges of technology that are central to other writers’ approach to the genre, but remain very popular with readers, especially his Robot Series and the Foundation series of novels.
He coined the term robotics, in the 1941 story, “Liar!,” and the concept of “positronic” brains. Many of his stories and novels feature robots as central characters. His “Three Laws of Robotics” were introduced in the 1942 short story, “Runaround.” The three laws are:
A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First and Second Laws.
Azimov died on Apr. 6, 1992.