Ray Bradbury, Science Fiction Icon and Author, Dies at 91

Science fiction icon and author Ray Bradbury died at 91 on June 5, 2012.
Science fiction icon and author Ray Bradbury died at 91 on June 5, 2012. (Image credit: Wikimedia Commons/Caleb Sconosciuto)

Science fiction icon and author of "The Martian Chronicles" Ray Bradbury has died in California at the age of 91, according to news reports.

The famed writer of screenplays, plays and novels, including "Fahrenheit 451," which predicts a dystopian book-burning future, died Tuesday night (June 5), according to his daughter Alexandra Bradbury.

Bradbury's first book, "The Martian Chronicles," weaves together a picture of humans colonizing Mars after spoiling Earth, in a series of related short stories. It was published in 1950, and has now been reproduced in more than 30 languages and made into a TV miniseries and a computer game.

Both "The Martian Chronicles" and "Fahrenheit 451," which came out in 1953, dealt with the Cold War preoccupations of book-banning and censorship. They became instant classics alongside other groundbreaking futuristic works such as George Orwell's "1984" and Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World."

The author was born in Waukegan, Ill., as Ray Douglas Bradbury on Aug. 22, 1920. He was a voracious reader and writer from childhood, and grew up loving the works of Edgar Allan Poe, H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, and Edgar Rice Burroughs.

"I never went to college, so I went to the library," he once said, according to the Associated Press.

"He wrote 'Fahrenheit 451' at the UCLA library, on typewriters that rented for 10 cents a half hour," wrote the Associated Press. "He said he carried a sack full of dimes to the library and completed the book in nine days, at a cost of $9.80."

The author was able to witness some of the predictions of his science-fiction writings, such as human space travel, come true with the 1960s manned moon launches. [Terraforming the Solar System: Q&A With Author Kim Stanley Robinson]

"We didn't think we could do it, and we did it! It was quite amazing," he said during a 2009 interview with Mat Kaplan of The Planetary Society, published on the 365 Days of Astronomy podcast.

Even Wernher von Braun, the German-turned-American rocket scientist who designed the vehicles that took astronauts to the moon, credited Bradbury with helping mankind achieve that feat.

"You saw it all ahead of us…to the moon. You inspired us," von Braun wrote in an autograph to Bradbury, the writer told the podcast.

To the end, the visionary stuck by his passion for space exploration.

"The moon is everything and Mars is beyond, waiting for us," Bradbury said. "I want to be buried on Mars. I don't want to be the first live person to arrive there. It'll be too late. But I want to be the first dead person that gets there. I want to arrive in a Campbell's soup can."

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Clara Moskowitz
Assistant Managing Editor

Clara Moskowitz is a science and space writer who joined the Space.com team in 2008 and served as Assistant Managing Editor from 2011 to 2013. Clara has a bachelor's degree in astronomy and physics from Wesleyan University, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She covers everything from astronomy to human spaceflight and once aced a NASTAR suborbital spaceflight training program for space missions. Clara is currently Associate Editor of Scientific American. To see her latest project is, follow Clara on Twitter.