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American inventor Simon Lake was captivated by the idea of travel after reading Jules Verne’s “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” in 1870. He built the Argonaut, the first submarine to operate successfully in the open ocean, in 1898. Verne congratulated him.
Igor Sikorsky invented the modern helicopter, inspired by Jules Verne’s “Clipper of the Clouds.” He quoted Verne: “Anything that one man can imagine, another man can make real.”
Robert H. Goddard built the first successful liquid-fueled rocket in 1926, inspired by an 1898 newspaper serialization of H.G. Wells’ classic novel about a Martian invasion, “War of the Worlds.”
In 1914, H.G. Wells’ novel “The World Set Free” inspired physicist Leo Szilard in 1933 to solve the problem of creating a nuclear chain reaction — in 1933.
E.E. “Doc” Smith delighted readers with his “Lensmen” novels, about a futuristic Galactic Patrol. In 1947, sci-fi editor James W. Campbell wrote Smith to say that the Directrix command ship featured in his series had inspired a U.S. naval officer to introduce the concept of combat information centers aboard warships.
Robert Heinlein in 1942 wrote a short story about a physically infirm inventor, Waldo F. Jones, who created a remotely operated mechanical hand. Real-life “waldos” were developed for the nuclear industry a few years later.
Martin Cooper, the director of development at Motorola, credited the Star Trek communicator for the design of the first mobile phone in the early 1970s. “That was not fantasy to us. That was an objective.”
The early 20th century character Tom Swift, a genius inventor, inspired NASA physicist Jack Cover’s invention of the Taser, an acronym for Swift’s “Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle.”
Apple scientist Steve Perlman got his idea for the groundbreaking multimedia program QuickTime after watching an episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” where one character listens to multiple music tracks on his computer.
Philip Rosedale, inventor of the online community Second Life, credits Neal Stephenson’s “Snow Crash” for painting “a compelling picture of what such a virtual world could look like in the near future, and I found that inspiring.”
Bill Gates credits a “Stargate SG-1” episode, “2010,” with the idea of creating a vaccine to dramatically reduce Earth’s population to reverse the threat of global climate change. “We only need some way to convince people to take it.”
Excuse me, what’s that? Oh, of course. Bill just called to correct the record. He has never watched “Stargate SG-1.” (He also muttered something about, “Let them eat insects.”)Published in