Forward, Robert L(ull) 1932-2002

views updated

FORWARD, Robert L(ull) 1932-2002

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born August 15, 1932, in Geneva, NY; died of brain cancer September 21, 2002, in Seattle, WA. Physicist and author. Forward was an acclaimed author of "hard", or technically factual science-fiction novels. After earning a B.S. degree from the University of Maryland in 1954, he served in the U.S. Air Force for two years, reaching the rank of captain. A graduate fellowship permitted him to study physics at the University of California at Los Angeles, where he earned a master's degree in applied physics in 1958 while working at Hughes Research Laboratories. While working his way up the ranks at Hughes, Forward completed his Ph.D. at the University of Maryland in 1965. After becoming a senior scientist at Hughes in 1974, Forward began work on his first science-fiction novel, Dragon's Egg (1980), which, as with all his later books, is a story based on scientific fact. Forward retired from Hughes in 1987 in order to spend more time on his writing, impressing reviewers and readers alike with his fantastically imaginative world-building. His books include tales about aliens and civilizations existing on neutron stars, closely orbiting binary planets, and in the clouds above the surface of Saturn. However, at times he was criticized for thin plotlines and shallow characterizations that some felt critics took second place behind his scientifically accurate settings. Nevertheless, Forward found many fans with such novels as Timemaster (1992), Camelot 30K (1993), and his last book, Saturn Rukh (1997). The year he left Hughes, Forward founded his own company, Forward Unlimited, a consulting firm specializing in innovative space propulsion systems and "exotic physics." In 1992 he also founded Tethers Unlimited, which made tethers for the U.S. Air Force and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Forward was a brilliant scientist who held twenty patents and whose gravitational radiation antenna—which detects gravity waves—was the first device of its kind; it is currently on display in the Smithsonian Institute. As a physicist, Forward was fascinated by gravity and felt that it was possible to invent an anti-gravity machine; he was also interested in the possibilities of time travel and of warping spacetime in order to cross vast distances through the universe. In addition to his works of science fiction, Forward also published over 150 scientific papers and the nonfiction books Future Magic (1988) and Indistinguishable from Magic (1995), which speculate on the scientific advances of the future. He was also the author, with Joel Davis, of Mirror Matter: Pioneering Antimatter Physics (1988).



Chicago Tribune, September 26, 2002, section 2, p. 9.

Los Angeles Times, September 24, 2002, p. B11.

New York Times, September 28, 2002, p. B15.

Times (London, England), September 30, 2002.

Washington Post, October 9, 2002, p. B6.


Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Web site, (September 26, 2002).