Birth of Jules Verne

jules-verne-week-in-historyAt the age of thirty-five, Verne had found his life’s work. In his remaining forty-two years, he would write more than sixty “scientific romances,” averaging two books per year and winning the reputation of the founder of science fiction. Verne drew on two of his major loves in the writing of science fiction: geography and science.

Though he seldom traveled, Verne was an avid reader of travel books and was recognized as an accomplished amateur geographer. Early in his career, he wrote a popular history of geographical exploration from the Phoenicians to the nineteenth century, La Decouverte de la terre (1878; The Discovery of the Earth, 1878), while he also collaborated on an illustrated geography of France. This fascination with a sense of place gave Verne the ability to provide intimate and convincing details in his novels, even those set in remote places in the Americas and the Pacific. Of seafaring stock and as an accomplished yachtsman, Verne filled his novels that were set on the oceans with compelling data that would normally be known only to a sailor. Verne’s feeling for locale was consistently persuasive.

Although he was not an inventor, Verne was an avid reader of scientific literature and had the gift to see the technological application of many of the great discoveries of the nineteenth century. Verne’s writing anticipated that of science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke in this respect, for there is always a hard core of scientific fact inside his fantastic tales. Late in his life, when someone dared to compare his writing to that of the British author H. G. Wells, Verne protested, insisting, “I do not see the possibility of comparison between his work and mine … his stories do not repose on very scientific bases … I make use of physics. He invents.”

As an author, Verne was a world celebrity within his own lifetime. As a French citizen, he was awarded the Légion d’Honneur in 1870. As a resident of Amiens, he was active in municipal government. As a lover of the sea, he was a skilled yachtsman who sailed to Britain, Scandinavia, the Baltic Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea until that activity was prevented in 1886 through a wound inflicted by a madman, his nephew Gaston, who shot Verne in the foot at point-blank range. Later in life, Verne, an authentic workaholic, suffered from arthritis, blindness in one eye caused by a cataract, and increasing struggles with depression. His death on March 24, 1905, deprived the planet of a prophet and master storyteller, but Verne’s ability to entertain continued, for a number of successful motion pictures have been based on his movies, including Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1916, 1954, and 1997), The Mysterious Island (1929 and 1961), From the Earth to the Moon (1958), Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959) and perhaps the most popular of all, Around the World in Eighty Days (1956 and 2004).

Fry, C. G. (2016). Jules Verne. Salem Press Biographical Encyclopedia.

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