In 1920, a child was born in the Soviet Russian town of Petrovich. This child would go on to coin the term robotics, write acclaimed science fiction novels, and develop severe acrophobia and aviophobia. That man’s name was Isaac Asimov, the Russian Sci-Fi Writer who feared heights. In this article, we’re going to look at five fascinating facts about the life of Asimov.
Who was the Russian Sci-Fi Writer who feared heights?
Isaac Asimov was born into a family of Jewish millers in the village of Petrovichi 400 kilometres from Moscow. He was given the name Isaac after Isaac Berman, the father of his mother. One of the most prominent Isaac Asimov quotes about his parents was the following:
“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”
In 1921, a wave of double pneumonia hit the village of Petrovichi. Isaac, along with 16 other local children, was struck by it. However, Isaac was the only one to survive. Throughout the 1920s, Isaac’s parents gave birth to two more children and Isaac soon had a sister named Marcia and a brother named Stanley.
In early 1923, Isaac Asimov and his family left the Soviet Union, at which time there was a fierce threat from ant-Jewish pogroms. Traveling via the British city of Liverpool, they headed to the United States of America. Asimov was then raised in Brooklyn, New York, where he taught himself and his sister to read at the age of five which enabled them both to get into school.
Later on in life, Asimov would go on to become a prolific writer and professor of biochemistry at Boston University. He went on to write over 500 books and 90,000 postcards and letters. His work was mostly focused on science fiction and popular science but he also delved into fantasy and mystery genres as well as a range of non-fiction. During his lifetime, he was considered one of the “Big Three” science fiction writers alongside Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke.
6 Fascinating Facts About Isaac Asimov
From meeting his wife at an autograph signing to having his cause of death hidden for almost a decade, the life of the Russian Sci Fi writer who was scared of heights was certainly a fascinating one. Check out these 6 facts about the man raised by poor immigrant parents who went on to become an esteemed writer who was asked to be a consultant on Star Trek.
6. His cause of death was hidden for a decade.
Following a heart attack in 1977, Asimov required triple bypass surgery which he was given around Christmas in 1983. During the operation, he was given a blood transfusion tainted with HIV. Sadly, Asimov contracted the HIV virus which subsequently developed into AIDS. In 1992, he passed away as a result of heart and kidney failure.
Due to the era that Asimov’s death took place in, his family was dissuaded from releasing the true cause of the much-loved author’s death. This was due to the intense fear surrounding the virus and the major lack of understanding that existed then. Thus, it was only until a decade after he had died, in 2002, that the true cause of death was disclosed.
5. Asimov was rejected from almost every school he applied to:
When Isaac was 15, he applied for a place at Columbia College only to be rejected. The reason given was that “the school’s quota for Jews for the coming year was already filled”. He went to the Columbia affiliated Seth Low Junior College instead. When that school closed, he was transferred to Columbia anyway and in 1939 he achieved a degree in chemistry.
After graduation, Asimov was eyeing a career as a doctor and applied to join five different medical universities in New York, twice. He was rejected on both attempts. He then tried to join the graduate program at Columbia to further his chemistry studies, only to be rejected again. When you assess the achievements Asimov accomplished, this is a great case study of why you should never give up.
4. Candy saved his family during the Great Depression
When they first arrived in Brooklyn, Azimov’s father began working endless small jobs in order to scrape enough money together to invest in a store selling candy. Throughout the Great Depression, his parents worked in the store for up to twenty hours a day in order to support their children and survive. In the 1930s, his father was able to expand his business and buy a series of candy shops across Brooklyn.
3. Azimov’s love for science fiction was born in the candy shop
Isaac Azimov was given his first job at nine years old when he was put to work in the family candy store. With an average day lasting 19 to 20 hours, Isaac was expected to work hard from dawn till dusk. As he grew up, he gained other part-time jobs but still maintained a role in the family business well into his twenties.
In addition to candy, the family store also stocked various magazines. This was where Isaac discovered science fiction and would intensely read the various science fiction stories contained within them. Thus spawning his deep passion for the sci-fi genre.
2. Azimov invented the word ”Robotics”
The word ‘robot’ comes from a Slavic language word used to describe a slave. In 1921, the word was given to the world when the Czech writer Karel Čapek used it in a play in order to describe human-like machines working on an assembly line in a factory. Twenty years later, Asimov would give the world the word ”Robotics”.
Asimov was the first person to use the term robotics when he used the term in his short story ”Liar!” to describe the technology possessed by robots. The following year, in 1942, he created an additional short story titled ”Runaround” which covered the Laws of Robotics. These three self-styled rules explained that a robot can’t hurt a human, robots must obey humans, and robots must protect themselves. The latter on the basis that it doesn’t conflict with the first two laws.
1. Asimov was a Russian sci fi writer who feared heights
Despite being renowned as a man of reason, Azimov had an overriding fear of both heights and flying. His realization of being an acrophobe became apparent when he was on a date with a girl at a theme park during his twenties. Asimov wrote in his memoir of taking his girlfriend on a roller coaster at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York:
“From what I had seen of it in movies, it seemed to me that my date would scream and would cling to me, something which, I thought, would be delightful. Instead, I screamed in terror and I hung on desperately to my date, who sat there stolid and unmoved.
After taking two airplane flights, Azimov also realized he was afflicted by aviophobia. Those two flights were the only ones he ever took in his life. For future travel around the United States, he religiously stuck to trains and cars. To travel abroad, he always opted for cruise ships. For years to come, he would be known by many as the Russian sci-fi writer who feared heights, and these days the term is even a popular crossword answer.