“Anything that one man imagines, another man can make real”. History says these are the very words celebrated inventor Igor Sikorsky lived by, whose most cherished gift to the world was his invention of the modern day Helicopter concept. And he sure stood by his words, where his own invention was a practical embodiment of another man’s imagination, penned by Jules Verne. Now where does this leave us? Today, we use a whole array of new devices and inventions in our daily lives, seldom knowing the history behind them. And even more interestingly, we are often kept in the blind about how two seemingly unrelated fields could indeed be tightly interconnected. Well, a shocking news for all you sci-fi fans out there watching series and movies on your iPad: one might not have existed if it wasn’t for the other.
Classic Science fiction novels and movies by renowned writers like Jules Verne, Robert Heinlein and even Mark Twain and Gene Roddenberry have not only inspired awe in us through their futuristic imaginary creations, but simultaneously have managed to kindle the inventing gene within many well known inventors and scientists throughout history. One of the earliest such inspirations for Simon Lake was during his early days of reading and submerging himself in Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea (1870 written). As compelling a read as it was, it also opened up an ocean of ideas to Simon Lake regarding travel undersea and further exploration. His product at the end of this inspired endeavour was “Argonaut”, the first ever submarine to traverse the ocean with no fault, by 1898. This was one of the first instances where history saw fiction inspiring the non-fictitious, and materialising in front of our very own eyes.
Leave alone ambitious vehicles, even our everyday life saving creations were once mere thoughts and imaginative pieces in the minds of literature fanatics such as Edward Bellamy. As a day dreaming college dropout, his exploring mind cooked up the utopian marvel piece “Looking Backward:2000-1887”, where he envisioned a piece of rectangular plastic which could help pay your dividends. Decades later, John Biggins and later Frank McNamara adopted the original term from the book to name their creation, Credit Cards. This new creation went on to revolutionise the money transfer system to the advanced age we have today. Let’s just say, a lot of shopaholics would be more grateful to Edward Bellamy than he could ever have envisioned.
And switching genres, one of the most famous inventions of all time, which interestingly enough is something you’re currently using to read this article, was also a child born from the laps of science fiction. Computer Scientist Tim Berners-Lee swears that his first idea for the World Wide Web was kindled whne reading “Dial F for Frankenstein”. Arthur C. Clarke’s classic was a story that revolved around a number of computers that become interconnected and learn to communicate with another. However thankfully he decided to stop the novel from inspiring him too much, since those computers later go on to wrestle all communications control from the grip of mankind. Funnily enough, he had gotten to read this on the pages of Playboy, and if this goes to show anything it is that you never know when and were inspiration might strike.
Not only has science fiction been partly a reason for progress on Earth, but it has stretched its arms upwards to the skies in its attempts to envision vessels that could even traverse outer space. At least, this was how celebrated scientist Robert H. Goddard claims he was pushed to explore ways to create a rocket that could be powerful enough for space travel. It all began with H.G.Wells’ “The War of the Worlds” which proclaimed of vessels that held enough power to be propelled all the way past our previous boundaries out into outer space. This traversal achieved in 1923 was finally a stamp on the power of Science Fiction and the power of imagination.
What this shows are mere grains in the long stretch of a beach, crowded with many more inspirational inventions, many of which grew from the seed planted by the imaginative writers. Yes its quite possible that the writers may not have had a clue about how seriously their words would be taken by fans. Especially if the fans were the brainiacs of their own generations. But that is the power of imagination, the power of literature and more importantly, the power of history. It always finds a way to mould the present and create more chances for the future.