It was a time of profound excitement. It was a time of awe and wonder. New ideas and inventions surfaced daily. Original thinkers were paving the way to the future with innovations that define our lives to this day. One of the most inspiring among them was the visionary Jules Verne.
It was the second wave of the Industrial Revolution, roughly 1870 to 1914. (It is sometimes referred to as the Technological Revolution.) Economic and technological progress flourished with the increasing adoption of steam power. Just like today, visions of the future were limitless.
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 tells the story of The Baltimore Gun Club. They launch three men to the moon with a hollow projectile from a powerful cannon. They travel out of earth’s field of gravity toward the moon. His calculations came surprisingly close to reality. He pictured the state of weightlessness the men experience during flight. He also predicted the launching site in Florida, near the NASA launch site today as well as the landing in the Pacific Ocean.
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, Columbia, took off from Florida and landed in the Pacific Ocean after completing a trip to the Moon. It seems appropriate to us to share with you some of the reflections of the crew as the modern-day Columbia completes its rendezvous with the planet Earth and the same Pacific Ocean tomorrow.”
The Purchase of the North Pole (a.k.a. Topsy Turvy) was published in 1889. Yes, its characters are searching for massive coal reserves instead of oil, but the auction of the Arctic energy reserves is as chilling today as the region itself. This novel not only predicted an Arctic land grab, it foreshadowed global warming.
In other books, Verne predicted:
-Drones to replace soldiers
-and Guided Missiles.
Verne envisioned the future, but was always grounded in reality. He had no formal scientific education, but 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.
Verne took copious notes on topics that interested him. One of his favorites was a primitive submarine that was being tested in the North Sea. He studied a model of the French submarine Plongeur at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1897. His research helped him shape ideas about a submarine powered by electricity. His studies gave birth to The Nautilus ship that appeared in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.
The book first appeared as serialized storied from March 1869 to June 1870 in Pierre-Jules Hetzel‘s periodical, the Magasin d’Éducation et de Récréation. The installments were illustrated with 111 plates by by Edouard Riou and Alphonse de Neuvilleand. The installments were later released as a novel in a collection called Extraordinary Voyages.
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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