The science fiction writer Sir Arthur C Clarke - famed for his visionary predictions of the future - has died aged 90.
He will be remembered as someone who for more than half a century popularised scientific reality through science fiction, and who lived long enough to see many of his most outlandish predictions become first fact and then history.
In more than 70 books, countless short stories, articles, film scripts and TV shows, Clarke painted his vision of the future that may at times have veered towards the romantically idealistic but was nevertheless always grounded in plausible scientific reality.
He provided the inspiration for what some fans claim to be the best science fiction film ever made - 2001: A Space Odyssey.
There are two kinds of science fiction writers - those who paint a picture of alternative, future or alien worlds governed by fantasy and whimsy, and those whose fiction is rooted firmly in the laws of physics.
Clarke, along with his American contemporary Isaac Asimov, was firmly in the latter camp.
His stories were often little more than an excuse to air a technological or scientific postulation. Clarke's astronauts mostly eschewed the “warp drives'”and “wormholes” beloved of most sci-fi writers and relied instead on good old-fashioned rockets.
Clarke, who was wheelchair-bound, had been suffering from heart and breathing problems when he died in his adopted home of Sri Lanka at 7.30pm GMT yesterday, according to an aide.
In later life he had suffered from post-polio syndrome, a result of contracting a brief bout of the disease in his youth.
Astronomer Sir Patrick Moore paid tribute to his friend last night, saying: “He was a great visionary, a brilliant science fiction writer and a great forecaster.
“He foresaw communications satellites, a nationwide network of computers, interplanetary travel - he said there would be a man on the moon by 1970, while I said 1980 - and he was right.”
Born the son of a farmer in Somerset in 1917, Clarke was a radar specialist for the RAF during the Second World War and took up writing full-time in the 1940s.
In 1945, Clarke made perhaps his most famous and accurate prediction.
He wrote an article in Wireless World predicting that, one day, it would be possible to use satellites in fixed “geostationary” orbits, 23,000 miles above the Earth, as in effect giant radio masts, allowing radio, telephony and television signals to be relayed from any point on the planet to another.
Although this was a dozen years before the first satellite would be launched, Clarke had come up with the idea for worldwide satellite-broadcasts.
In keeping with his visions of a future that others could barely imagine, he coined Clarke's Law: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
In 1953, while scuba diving in Florida, he met Marilyn Mayfield, marrying her a fortnight later. But she left him six months later. Clarke settled in Sri Lanka in
One short story made him famous. The Sentinel - a tale of a mysterious alien race which had accelerated human evolution - was noticed by the film director Stanley Kubrick, who met Clarke in Trader Vic's bar in New York to discuss how it could be turned into “the perfect science fiction movie”.
From the roof of Kubrick's Manhattan apartment, the pair spotted a mysterious object tracking across the sky.
The UFO was, they decided, a good omen and they signed the deal. (The UFO turned out to be a secret Pentagon spy satellite).
The result was spectacular. 2001: A Space Odyssey, released in 1968, has been hailed by its fans as the best science fiction movie ever made; its detractors claim it is incomprehensible gibberish, especially the ending, which differs from Clarke's more straightforward original.
Unusually for a celebrity writer, Clarke was always highly approachable - he described himself as a “failed recluse”, holed up in his luxury Colombo home.
His phone number was listed in the Sri Lankan directory. Until his health really started to go downhill in the late 1990s, he would always answer calls from fans personally, often spending half an hour or more chatting away about space elevators of the possibilities of colonising the Moon.