Jules Verne was both a visionary and a futurist. It was a time of awe and wonder, with new ideas and inventions surfacing daily. It was a time of profound excitement when original thinkers paved the way to innovation.
It was the second wave of the Industrial Revolution, also known as the Technological Revolution (roughly 1870 to 1914), a time when economic and technological progress flourished with the increasing adoption of steam power. Visions of the future were unstoppable.
Considered by many to be the Father of Science Fiction, Jules Verne (Feb. 8, 1828 to March 24, 1905) wrote more than 70 books that inspired generations of readers — artists, inventors and scientists. Today, Verne is widely regarded as a prophet who influenced the development of many modern technologies decades before his time.
In his 1865 novel, From the Earth to the Moon, Verne told the story of The Baltimore Gun Club’s attempts to launch three men to the moon with a powerful canon. He worked some rough calculations and some of his data came surprisingly close to reality.
During their return journey from the moon in 1969, Neil Armstrong, mission commander of the Apollo 11, made reference to Jules Verne’s book. “A hundred years ago, Jules Verne wrote a book about a voyage to the Moon. His spaceship…took off from Florida and landed in the Pacific Ocean after completing a trip to the Moon.”
In other books, Verne predicted: Helicopters, Holographic Performances, Video Conferencing, the use of Drones instead of soldiers, Taser Guns and Guided Missiles.
The Power of Perception and Research
Verne envisioned the future, but was always grounded in reality. While he had no formal scientific education, he surrounded himself with a circle of friends who were interested in science, inventions and exploration. A voracious reader, his imagination was undoubtedly sparked and shaped by the wealth of scientific and technical journals available at his men’s club.
He took copious notes, for example, on a submarine that was being tested in the North Sea. These notes would help him shape the Nautilus, a submarine powered by electricity that would appear in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, published in 1870.
Simon Lake, a mechanical engineer and naval architect who pioneered submarine design for the U.S. Navy, credited his inspiration to Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Lake opened his autobiography with “Jules Verne was in a sense the director-general of my life.” Countless other inventors and explorers credit their inspiration to Jules Verne.
Inspired by Verne’s book, Around the World In Eighty Days, Nellie Bly launched in an eastward course to beat Phileas Fogg’s record in 1889. Hours later, Elizabeth Bisland launched on a westward course on an experimental mail train to beat both Bly and Fogg.
I know I’ve been inspired by countless books. One of my favorites has always been Around the World in Eighty Days. What books have inspired you?
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