1 Jules Verne
Excerpt from "Chapter 8—History of the Cannon," in From the Earth to the Moon: Passage Direct in Ninety-seven Hours and Twenty Minutes
Published in 1865; available at Space Educators' Handbook, Johnson Space Center, NASA (Web site)
Science fiction is imaginative literature that is based on scientific principles. This literary genre, or distinct type of literature, is unlike fantasy literature such as The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien (1892–1973), which portrays fantastical events that have no basis in the real world. Science fiction emerged in the nineteenth century after science became increasingly important to society. It was not until the early part of the twentieth century, however, that a large number of authors began to write science fiction, mainly in the form of short stories. Magazines such as Amazing Stories and Astounding Science Fiction, both founded in the 1930s, brought science fiction into the homes of millions of readers. After the end of World War II (1939–45) there was a great boom in this kind of literature. The terrible devastation caused by the atomic bomb, dropped by the United States on Japan to end the war, prompted writers to imagine the advances, and the destruction, that could be created by science. Science fiction also became a popular subject in movies. By the 1950s science fiction was taken seriously as a literary and cinematic art form.
French author Jules Verne (1828–1905) is generally considered the father of science fiction. His immense catalogue of work, containing over forty science-fiction and adventure novels, has been translated from French into dozens of languages and has been read by people around the world. Although Verne wrote in the nineteenth century, his works foresaw the use of numerous scientific marvels, such as the submarine, television, the Aqua-Lung™ (a device used for breathing under water), and, most importantly, space travel. That all of these phenomena were later invented or achieved conveys that Verne's work was not fantasy, but rather a realistic glimpse into the future based on scientific speculation.
Born in Nantes, France, in 1828, Verne was a product of his time. In the nineteenth century people began to question traditional ways of looking at the world around them. The Christian Church was losing its traditional authority, and many people began to listen less often to their priest or pastor and more often to news of discoveries made by scientists. The average person was more interested in politics and individual rights than ever before. People debated how society should be organized, what role government should have in individual life, and what economic system best served the nation. Verne was a socialist (one who believes in communal ownership of property and a strong central government), but he did not follow the teachings of German political philosopher Karl Marx (1818–1883), who is considered the founder of socialism. Rather, Verne embraced the ideas of the French philosopher Henri Saint-Simon (1720–1825), believing that universal industrial and scientific production would unify the world. He was captivated by this vision and wove themes of harmonious industrial cooperation into his works.
Verne was fascinated by science. His most notable novels, such as Journey to the Center of the Earth (1872) and Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea (1873), have scientific principles at their core. Although Verne's stories contain elements of adventure tales, they were completely different from any other fiction being written at the time. Typically, Verne put his characters in specific places at specific times, requiring that they draw upon their knowledge of science to overcome obstacles within the natural world. By using a mixture of imagination, practicality, and scientific training, Verne created visions of the future that, decades later, did not seem so fantastical as they did during the time when he was writing.
Verne wrote his most political book, From the Earth to the Moon: Passage Direct in Ninety-seven Hours and Twenty Minutes, during the American Civil War (1861–65). He wondered how the American economy, which was completely dependent on the war industry, could survive after the war. More importantly, he wondered how the American people, who were putting all their energies into destroying one another, would redirect their energy when peace was declared. In the book he depicts the adventures of a group of Civil War veterans who organize the Baltimore Gun Club. Led by club president Impey Barbicane, the club members theorize that by melting down all the cannons left over from the war, they will be able to make a cannon that is large enough to launch a projectile (a rocket-like object projected by external force and continuing in motion) carrying human cargo to the Moon. From the Moon they will be able to travel to other planets. The men call the cannon the Columbiad, and they draw up plans that attract international attention. Receiving funds from groups around the world, the club members soon build the cannon and a large telescope to monitor the projectile's flight in space. After a huge cooperative effort, the Columbiad launches the projectile into space carrying humans bound for interplanetary travel. The projectile does not land on the Moon but instead is drawn into the Moon's gravitational pull. At the end of the book it is unclear whether the projectile will be destroyed or will remain forever in orbit.
H. G. Wells
The English author H. G. Wells (1866–1946) was another influential nineteenth-century science-fiction writer. Like Jules Verne, Wells was a committed socialist. Calling his novels "scientific romances," he depicted the dark side of human nature and warned about the misuse of technology. In these works he predicted devastating global conflicts, the development of atomic weaponry, and the advent of chemical warfare. Among his most popular early science-fiction novels were The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds, The Invisible Man, and The Island of Doctor Moreau. Today, Wells is perhaps best known for The War of the Worlds (1898), which describes a Martian invasion of Earth. This novel was the basis of one of the more memorable events of the twentieth century: On an October evening in 1938, the American actor Orson Welles (1915–1985) and his Mercury Theater players broadcast a live radio dramatization of The War of the Worlds. The performance was so realistic that listeners in New Jersey fled their homes in panic, believing they were actually being invaded by Martians.
Things to remember while reading an excerpt from "Chapter 8—History of the Cannon," in From the Earth to the Moon:
- Notice that Barbicane's committee members are skeptical about his ideas for a space rocket. They ask him detailed questions that require him to explain how it will be built, the materials they will use, and the ability of the finished product to remain aloft in space.
- Verne wrote From the Earth to the Moon almost one hundred years before the flight of Apollo 11, the first mission to the Moon (see Michael Collins and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. entry). He firmly believed that human beings could and would travel into space.
- Although Verne's cannon seems fantastical, notice that he discusses many of the same issues that National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) scientists had to consider when making the rockets that carried the Apollo spacecraft: the length of the apparatus, the materials needed to construct the vessel, the cost of the project, and the type of fuel needed to send the vessel into orbit.
Excerpt from "Chapter 8—History of the Cannon," in From the Earth to the Moon
The resolutions passed at the last meeting produced a great effect out of doors. Timid people took fright at the idea of a shot weighing 20,000 pounds being launched into space; they asked what cannon could ever transmit a sufficientvelocity to such a mighty mass. The minutes of the second meeting were destined triumphantly to answer such questions. The following evening the discussion was renewed.
"My dear colleagues," said Barbicane, without furtherpreamble, "the subject now before us is the construction of the engine, its length, its composition, and its weight. It is probable that we shall end by giving it gigantic dimensions; but however great may be the difficulties in the way, our mechanical genius will readilysurmount them. Be good enough, then, to give me your attention, and do not hesitate to make objections at the close. I have no fear of them. The problem before us is how to communicate an initial force of 12,000 yards per second to a shell of 108 inches in diameter, weighing 20,000 pounds. Now when a projectile is launched into space, what happens to it? It is acted upon by three independent forces: the resistance of the air, the attraction of the earth, and the force ofimpulsion with which it isendowed. Let us examine these three forces. The resistance of the air is of little importance. The atmosphere of the earth does not exceed forty miles. Now, with the given rapidity, the projectile will havetraversed this in five seconds, and the period is too brief for the resistance of the medium to be regarded otherwise than as insignificant. Proceding [sic], then, to the attraction of the earth, that is, the weight of the shell, we know that this weight will diminish in theinverse ratio of the square of the distance. When a body left to itself falls to the surface of the earth, it falls five feet in the first second; and if the same body were removed 257,542 miles further off, in other words, to the distance of the moon, its fall would be reduced to about half a line in the first second. That is almost equivalent to a state of perfect rest. Our business, then, is to overcome progressively this action ofgravitation. The mode of accomplishing that is by the force of impulsion."
"There's the difficulty," broke in the major.
"True," replied the president; "but we will overcome that, for the force of impulsion will depend on the length of the engine and the
powder employed, the latter being limited only by the resisting power of the former. Our business, then, today is with the dimensions of the cannon."
"Now, up to the present time," said Barbicane, "our longest guns have not exceeded twenty-five feet in length. We shall therefore astonish the world by the dimensions we shall be obliged to adopt. Itmust evidently be, then, a gun of great range, since the length of the piece will increase thedetention of the gas accumulated behind the projectile; but there is no advantage in passing certain limits."
"Quite so," said the major. "What is the rule in such a case?"
"Ordinarily the length of a gun is twenty to twenty-five times the diameter of the shot, and its weight two hundred and thirty-five to two hundred and forty times that of the shot."
"That is not enough," cried J. T. Mastonimpetuously.
"I agree with you, my good friend; and, in fact, following this proportion for a projectile nine feet in diameter, weighing 30,000 pounds, the gun would only have a length of two hundred and twenty-five feet, and a weight of 7,200,000 pounds."
"Ridiculous!" rejoined Maston. "As well take a pistol."
"I think so too," replied Barbicane; "that is why I propose toquadruple that length, and to construct a gun of nine hundred feet."
The general and the major offered some objections; nevertheless, theproposition, actively supported by the secretary, was definitely adopted.
"But," said Elphinstone, "what thickness must we give it?"
"A thickness of six feet," replied Barbicane.
"You surely don't think of mounting a mass like that upon a carriage?" asked the major.
"It would be a superb idea, though," said Maston.
"Butimpracticable, " replied Barbicane. "No, I think of sinking this engine in the earth alone, binding it with hoops of wrought iron, and finally surrounding it with a thick mass of masonry of stone and cement. The piece once cast, must bebored with great precision, so as to preclude any possiblewindage. So there will be no loss whatever of gas, and all the expansive force of the powder will be employed in the propulsion."
"One simple question," said Elphinstone: "is our gun to berifled ?"
"No, certainly not," replied Barbicane; "we require an enormous initial velocity; and you are well aware that a shot quits a rifled gun less rapidly than it does a smooth-bore."
"True," rejoined the major.
The committee here adjourned for a few minutes to tea and sandwiches.
On the discussion being renewed, "Gentlemen," said Barbicane, "we must now take into consideration the metal to be employed. Our cannon must be possessed of greattenacity, great hardness, beinfusible by heat,indissoluble, andinoxidable by thecorrosive action of acids."
"There is no doubt about that," replied the major; "and as we shall have to employ an immense quantity of metal, we shall not be at a loss for choice."
"Well, then," said Morgan, "I propose the bestalloy hitherto known, which consists of one hundred parts of copper, twelve of tin, and six of brass."
"I admit," replied the president, "that this composition has yielded excellent results, but in the present case it would be too expensive, and very difficult to work. I think, then, that we ought to adopt a material excellent in its way and of low price, such as cast iron. What is your advice, major?"
"I quite agree with you," replied Elphinstone.
"In fact," continued Barbicane, "cast iron costs ten times less than bronze; it is easy to cast, it runs readily from the moulds of sand, it is easy of manipulation, it is at once economical of money and of time. In addition, it is excellent as a material, and I well remember that during the war, at the siege of Atlanta, some iron guns fired one thousand rounds at intervals of twenty minutes without injury."
"Cast iron is very brittle, though," replied Morgan.
"Yes, but it possesses great resistance. I will now ask our worthy secretary to calculate the weight of a cast-iron gun with a bore of nine feet and a thickness of six feet of metal."
"In a moment," replied Maston. Then, dashing off some algebraical formulae with marvelous facility, in a minute or two he declared the following result:
"The cannon will weigh 68,040 tons. And, at two cents a pound, it will cost—"
"Two million five hundred and ten thousand seven hundred and one dollars."
Maston, the major, and the general regarded Barbicane with uneasy looks.
"Well, gentlemen," replied the president, "I repeat what I said yesterday. Make yourselves easy; the millions will not be wanting."
With this assurance of their president the committee separated, after having fixed their third meeting for the following evening.
What happened next …
Jules Verne went on to write dozens of successful and popular novels, including Around the World in Eighty Days. In 1892 he was inducted as an officer into the French Foreign Legion of Honor. Several successful films have been made from Verne's novels, including Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea, (1916 and 1954), The Mysterious Island, (1929 and 1961), Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959), and Around the World in Eighty Days (1956 and 2004).
Did you know …
- The term "science fiction" was not coined until 1926, when author Hugo Gernsback (1884–1967) used the term to describe the stories published in Amazing Stories magazine, a periodical dedicated exclusively to science fiction.
- Preeminent twentieth-century authors such as Aldous Huxley (1894–1963), C. S. Lewis (1898–1963), and Kurt Vonnegut (1922–) wrote science fiction in addition to their many other works. These "crossover" works by noted "serious" authors helped lend credibility to the genre of science fiction.
Consider the following …
- Jules Verne wrote his novels and stories before the invention of the automobile, telephone, airplane, television, and submarine—to name a few—yet his plots often involved such inventions. With all the advancements made in science today, can you think of an invention that might seem unthinkable today but could be used in everyday life one hundred years from now?
- Science fiction is still popular. Who is your favorite science-fiction writer? Explain the reasons for your choice.
For More Information
Lottmann, Herbert R. Jules Verne: An Exploratory Biography. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996.
Verne, Jules. De la terre a la lune: Trajet direct en 97 heures 20 minutes. Hetzel, 1865. Translated as From the Earth to the Moon: Passage Direct in Ninety-seven Hours and Twenty Minutes. New York: Newark Printing and Publishing, 1869.
Seelhorst, Mary. "Jules Verne." Popular Mechanics (July 2003): pp. 36–37.
"Jules Verne." The Literature Network.http://www.online-literature.com/verne/ (accessed on July 15, 2004).
Science Fiction Weekly.http://www.scifi.com/sfw/ (accessed on July 15, 2004).
Verne, Jules. "Chapter 8—History of the Cannon," in From the Earth to the Moon. Space Educators' Handbook, Johnson Space Center/NASAhttp://www.jsc.nasa.gov/er/seh/chapter8.htm (accessed on July 15, 2004).
Velocity: Quickness of motion; speed.
Preamble: Introductory statement.
Impulsion: Forward motion.
Endowed: Granted or given; contain.
Inverse: Opposite in order, nature, or effect.
Gravitation: A force manifested by acceleration of two free material particles or bodies toward each other.
Impetuously: Without consideration or forethought.
Quadruple: Make four times as great or as many.
Bored: Make a cylindrical hole by digging away.
Windage: Space between the projectile of a smoothbore gun (an unrifled gun; that is, one without spiral grooves cut into the bore) and the surface of the bore.
Rifled: Cut spiral groves into a bore, or cylindrical hollow part, of a gun.
Tenacity: Persistence or firmness.
Infusible: Incapable of being fused or joined.
Indissoluble: Incapable of being broken or undone; permanent.
Inoxidable: Cannot be oxidized, or combined with oxygen.
Corrosive: Wearing away; able to corrode.
Alloy: Substance composed of two or more metals.
Hitherto: Up to this point.
The French novelist Jules Verne was the first authentic writer of modern science fiction. The best of his works, such as Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and Journey to the Center of the Earth, are characterized by his intelligent foresight into the technical achievements that are within man's grasp.
Jules Gabriel Verne was born on February 8, 1828, in Nantes, France, the eldest son of a prosperous lawyer, Pierre Verne, and his wife Sophie. Raised in a middle-class family, Jules despised his parents' constant drive to achieve middle-class respectability. Always rebellious but unsuccessful, Verne learned to escape into his own world of imagination. These feelings would show up in many of Verne's works as an adult.
An otherwise uneventful childhood was marked by one major event. In his twelfth year, Jules worked as a cabin boy on an ocean-going ship. The ship was intercepted by his father before it went to sea, and Jules is said to have promised his parents that in the future he "would travel only in imagination"—a prediction fulfilled in a manner his parents could not have imagined.
Career as a playwright
In 1847 Verne went to Paris, France, to study law, although privately he was already planning a literary career. Owing to the friendship he made with French author Alexandre Dumas the Elder (1802–1870), Verne's first play, Broken Straws, was produced—with some success—in 1850. From 1852 to 1855 he held a steady and low-paying position as secretary of a Paris theater, the Théâtre Lyrique. He continued to write comedies and operettas and began contributing short stories to a popular magazine, Le Musée des familles.
During a visit to Amiens, France, in May 1856, Verne met and fell in love with the widowed daughter of an army officer, Madame Morel (née Honorine de Viane), whom he married the following January. The circumstance that his wife's brother was a stockbroker may have influenced Verne in making the unexpected decision to embrace this profession. Membership in the Paris Exchange did not seriously interfere with his literary labors, however, because he adopted a rigorous timetable, rising at five o'clock in order to put in several hours researching and writing before beginning his day's work at the Bourse.
Verne's first long work of fiction, Five Weeks in a Balloon, took the form of an account of a journey by air over central Africa, at that time largely unexplored. The book, published in January 1863, was an immediate success. He then decided to retire from stockbroking and to devote himself full time to writing.
Verne's next few books were immensely successful at the time and are still counted among the best he wrote. A Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864) describes the adventures of a party of explorers and scientists who descend the crater of an Icelandic volcano and discover an underground world. The Adventures of Captain Hatteras (1866) centers on an expedition to the North Pole (not actually reached by Robert Peary until 1909). In From the Earth to the Moon (1865) and its sequel, Round the Moon (1870), Verne describes how two adventurous Americans—joined, naturally, by a Frenchman—arrange to be fired in a hollow projectile from a gigantic cannon that lifts them out of Earth's gravity field and takes them close to the moon. Verne not only pictured the state of weightlessness his "astronauts" experienced during their flight, but also he had the vision to locate their launching site in Florida, where nearly all of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) space launches take place today.
Verne wrote his two masterpieces when he was in his forties. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870) relates the voyages of the submarine Nautilus, built and commanded by the mysterious Captain Nemo, one of the literary figures in whom Verne incorporated many of his own character traits. Around the World in Eighty Days (1873) is the story of a successful bet made by a typical Englishman, Phineas Fogg, a character said to have been modeled on Verne's father, who had a mania for punctuality, or the art of timeliness.
Other popular novels include The Mysterious Island (1875) and Michael Strogoff (1876). Verne's total literary output comprised nearly eighty books, but many of them are of little value or interest today. One noteworthy feature of all his work is its moral idealism, which earned him in 1884 the personal congratulations of Pope Leo XIII (1810–1903). "If I am not always what I ought to be," Verne once wrote, "my characters will be what I should like to be." His interest in scientific progress was balanced by his religious faith, and in some of his later novels (such as The Purchase of the North Pole, 1889), he showed himself to be aware of the social dangers of uncontrolled technological advance.
Verne the man
Verne's personality was complex. Though capable of bouts of extreme liveliness and given to joking and playing practical jokes, he was basically a shy man, happiest when alone in his study or when sailing the English Channel in a converted fishing boat.
In 1886 Verne was the victim of a shooting accident, which left him disabled. The man that shot him proved to be a nephew who was suffering from mental instability. This incident served to reinforce Verne's natural tendency toward depression. Although he served on the city council of Amiens two years later, he spent his old age in retirement. In 1902 he became partially blind and he died on March 24, 1905 in Amiens.
For More Information
Costello, Peter. Jules Verne: Inventor of Science Fiction. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1978.
Evans, I. O. Jules Verne and His Work. New York: Twayne, 1966. Reprint, Mattituck, NY: Aeonian Press, 1976.
Jules-Verne, Jean. Jules Verne: A Biography. New York: Taplinger Publishing Company, 1976.
Lottman, Herbert R. Jules Verne: An Exploratory Biography. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996.
Lynch, Lawrence W. Jules Verne. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1992.
Teeters, Peggy. Jules Verne: The Man Who Invented Tomorrow. New York: Walker and Company, 1993.
Verne, Jules (1828–1905)
Verne, Jules (1828–1905)
Jules Verne, who has been called the "father of science fiction," was born on February 8, 1828, in Nantes, France. As a child, Verne enjoyed exploring the quays on the River Loire near his home. His favorite book was The Swiss Family Robinson because of its constant action and because members of the shipwrecked family contribute their different talents to the task of survival. As a young adult, Verne evaded his parents' plans for a career in law. Instead, in 1857, he bought himself a seat on the stock exchange, writing in his spare time. When, in 1862, he sold his first novel (Cinq Semainesen ballon, 1863; Five Weeks in a Balloon, 1869), he announced to his fellow stockbrokers that he had written a novel in a new genre created by himself. With this, he quit the stock exchange and devoted himself to writing. He was an extraordinarily prolific author, eventually publishing more than sixty novels in the series Les voyages extraordinaires (Fantastic journeys).
In Jules Verne: Inventor of Science Fiction (1978) Peter Costello observes that there was nothing new in Verne's concept of "fantastic journeys." Science fiction in this sense can be seen in the writings of the ancient Greeks. However, Costello suggests, Verne was the first to use a well-researched scientific basis for his tales. This makes his work convincing in a way that previous texts are not.
There is some controversy about the extent to which Verne's texts were intended for a child audience. In Jules Verne and His Work (1966) I. O. Evans observes that, although Verne was always mindful of young readers, he rarely wrote especially for them. Moreover, Walter James Miller points out in his foreword to The Annotated Jules Verne (1976) that Verne is considered a highly respected writer of adult fiction in much of Europe. It is only in Britain and America that his works are relegated to children–a fact that Miller attributes to the extensive editing and poor translations of the English-language texts.
On the other hand, Verne's novels may have particular appeal to children because of their emphasis on action and suspense. Furthermore, children can easily identify with Verne's protagonists. Just as children are marginalized in an adult-run society, so Verne's protagonists stand apart from society as they travel to the moon or to the center of the earth. In addition, Verne's books suggest ways in which child readers can see themselves as possessing agency. For example, his protagonists often rely upon their wits rather than physical force. In some cases, they also invent alternatives to established social traditions. In Deux Ans de vacances (1888; Two Years' Vacation, 1889) a group of shipwrecked boys organizes a society based on cooperation and individual development. In many ways, this new society seems superior to the adult-run boarding school from which they came, in which younger boys were expected to act as personal servants for older ones.
Verne's texts have been adapted for film, including Vingt Mille Lieues sous les mers (1870; Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, 1873), adapted and released by Walt Disney Productions in 1954, and Autour de la lune (1870; All Around the Moon, 1876), adapted and released by Jules Verne Films in 1967. His work has also been adapted for theater and television.
See also: Children's Literature.
Costello, Peter. 1978. Jules Verne: Inventor of Science Fiction. London: Hodder and Stoughton.
Evans, I. O. 1966. Jules Verne and His Work. New York: Twayne.
Miller, Walter James. 1976. "Foreword: A New Look at Jules Verne." In The Annotated Jules Verne: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, ed. Walter James Miller. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell.
The French novelist Jules Verne (1828-1905) was the first authentic exponent of modern science fiction. The best of his work is characterized by intelligent predictions of technical achievements actually within man's grasp at the time Verne wrote.
Jules Verne was born on Feb. 8, 1828, at Nantes, the eldest son of a prosperous provincial lawyer. An otherwise uneventful childhood was marked by one major escapade. In his twelfth year, Jules shipped as a cabin boy on an ocean-going three-master. The ship was intercepted by his father before it had put out to sea, and Jules is said to have promised his parents that "in future he would travel only in imagination"—a prediction fulfilled in a manner his parents could not have foreseen.
Career as a Playwright
In 1847 Verne went to Paris to study law, although privately he was already planning a literary career. Owing to the friendship he made with Alexandre Dumas the Elder, Verne's first play, Broken Straws, was produced—with some success—in 1850. From 1852 to 1855 he held a steady and ill-paid position as secretary of a Paris theater, the Théâtre Lyrique. He continued to write comedies and operettas and began contributing short stories to a popular magazine, Le Musée des familles.
During a visit to Amiens in May 1856, Verne met and fell in love with the widowed daughter of an army officer, Madame Morel (née Honorine de Viane), whom he married the following January. The circumstance that his wife's brother was a stockbroker may have influenced Verne in making the unexpected decision to embrace this profession. Membership in the Paris Exchange did not seriously interfere with his literary labors, however, because he adopted a rigorous timetable, rising at five o'clock in order to put in several hours researching and writing before beginning his day's work at the Bourse.
Verne's first long work of fiction, Five Weeks in a Balloon, took the form of an account of a journey by air over Central Africa, at that time largely unexplored. The book, published in January 1863, was an immediate success. He then decided to retire from stockbroking and to devote himself full time to authorship. His next few books were immensely successful at the time and are still counted among the best he wrote. A Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864) describes the adventures of a party of explorers and scientists who descend the crater of an Icelandic volcano and discover an underground world. The Adventures of Captain Hatteras (1866) centers on an expedition to the North Pole (not actually reached by Robert Peary until 1909). In From the Earth to the Moon (1865) and its sequel, Round the Moon (1870), Verne describes how two adventurous Americans—joined, naturally, by an equally intrepid Frenchman—arrange to be fired in a hollow projectile from a gigantic cannon that lifts them out of the earth's gravity field and takes them close to the moon. Verne not only pictured the state of weightlessness his "astronauts" experienced during their flight, but also he had the prescience to locate their launching site in Florida.
Verne wrote his two masterpieces when he was in his 40s. Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea (1870) relates the voyages of the submarine Nautilus, built and commanded by the mysterious Capt. Nemo, one of the literary figures in whom Verne incorporated many of his own character traits. Around the World in Eighty Days (1873) is the story of a successful wager made by a typically phlegmatic Englishman, Phineas Fogg, a character said to have been modeled on Verne's father, who had a mania for punctuality. Other popular novels include The Mysterious Island (1875) and Michael Strogoff (1876). Verne's total literary output comprised nearly 80 books, but many of them are of little value or interest today. One noteworthy feature of all his work is its moral idealism, which earned him in 1884 the personal congratulations of Pope Leo XIII. "If I am not always what I ought to be, " Verne once wrote, "my characters will be what I should like to be." His interest in scientific progress was tempered by his robust religious faith, and in some of his later novels (such as The Purchase of the North Pole, 1889), he showed himself aware of the social dangers of uncontrolled technological advance.
Verne the Man
Verne's personality was complex. Though capable of bouts of extreme liveliness and given to punning and playing practical jokes, he was fundamentally a shy man, happiest when alone in his study or when sailing the English Channel in a converted fishing smack. In 1886 he was the victim of a shooting affray, which left him lame. His assailant proved to be a nephew who was suffering from an attack of persecution mania. This incident served to reinforce Verne's natural tendency to melancholy. Although he stood successfully for election to the city council of Amiens two years later, he spent his old age in close retirement. In 1902 he became partially blind; he died on March 24, 1905.
Verne's niece, Marguerite Allotte de la Fuye, published a biography based partly on family papers, Jules Verne (1928; trans. 1954). Kenneth Allott, Jules Verne (1940), is a full biography with critical appraisal of Verne's books. I. O. Evans, Jules Verne and His Work (1965), in spite of its naively uncritical approach, contains interesting illustrative material and an extensive bibliography.
Costello, Peter, Jules Verne: inventor of science fiction, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1978.
Evans, I. O.. (Idrisyn Oliver), Jules Verne and his work, Mattituck N.Y.: Aeonian Press, 1976.
Jules-Verne, Jean, Jules Verne: a biography, New York: Taplinger Pub. Co., 1976. □
French Science Fiction Novelist 1828-1905
Jules Gabriel Verne, one of the founding fathers of science fiction, was born in Nantes, France, in 1828. He was the eldest son of a successful provincial lawyer. At twelve years of age, Verne ran off to be a cabin boy on a merchant ship, thinking he was going to have an adventure. But his father caught up with the ship before it got very far and took Verne home to punish him. Verne promised in the future he would travel only in his imagination.
In 1847 Verne was sent to study law in Paris, and from 1848 until 1863 wrote opera librettos and plays as a hobby. He read incessantly and studied astronomy, geology, and engineering for many hours in Paris libraries. His first play was published in 1850, prompting his decision to discontinue his law studies. Displeased upon hearing this news, his father stopped paying his son's expenses in Paris. This forced Verne to earn money by selling his stories.
In 1862, at the age of thirty-four, Verne sent a series of works called Voyages Extraordinaire to Pierre-Jules Hetzel, a writer and publisher of literature for children and young adults. Verne attained enough success with the first in the series, Five Weeks in a Balloon, published in 1863, for the Verne/Hetzel collaboration to continue throughout his entire career. Hetzel published Verne's stories in his periodical, Magasin d'Education et de Recreation, and later released them in book form.
Due to nineteenth-century interest in science and invention, Verne's work was received with enormous popular favor. He forecast with remarkable accuracy many scientific achievements of the twentieth century. He anticipated flights into outer space, automobiles, submarines, helicopters, atomic power, telephones, air conditioning, guided missiles, and motion pictures long before they were developed. In his novels, however, science and technology are not the heroes. Instead, his heroes are admirable men who master science and technology. His object was to write books from which the young could learn.
Among his most popular books are Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864), From the Earth to the Moon (1865), 20,000 Leagues under the Sea (1870), Mysterious Island (1870), and Around the World in Eighty Days (1873). These five novels have remained in almost continuous print for over a century. Verne also produced an illustrated geography of France, and his works have been the source of many films.
Because of the popularity of these and other novels, Verne became a wealthy man. In 1857 he married Honorine de Viane. In 1876 he bought a large yacht and sailed around Europe. This was the extent of his real-life adventuring, leaving the rest for his novels. He maintained a regular writing schedule of at least two volumes a year. Verne published sixty-five novels, thirty plays, librettos, geographies, occasional short stories, and essays.
The last novel he wrote before his death was The Invasion of the Sea. He died in the city of Amiens, France, in 1905.
see also Careers in Writing, Photography, and Filmmaking (volume 1); Literature (volume 1).
Vickie Elaine Caffey
Verne, Jules. Around the World in Eighty Days (1873). New York: William Morrow &Company, 1988.
From the Earth to the Moon Interactive. NASA Johnson Space Center. <http://vesuvius.jsc.nasa.gov/er/she/bioverne.htm>.
"Jules Verne." <http://www.northstar.k12.ak.us/schools/ryn/spacerace/people/verne.html>.
"Jules Verne's Life History." <http://www.people.virginia.edu/~mtp0f/flips/history.html>.
Jules Verne (1828-1905)
JULES VERNE (1828-1905)
Science fiction writer Ray Bradbury said that Jules Verne embodies the whole history of humanity. Indeed, Verne lived in an era marked by and obsessed with scientific developments. His novels, filled with technological descriptions, made him one of the founders of science fiction.