I don’t think that science fiction writers in general, get the credit they deserve for their visionary abilities and the amount of research they must do in various fields such as biology, engineering, technology, etc., to get a reader to accept the ideas as something that could really happen. Today we call it "the plausible impossible" or "suspension of disbelief." Wells was a brilliant writer, but he was also an extreme intellect and that’s one of the reasons why his writings were so outstanding.
He was born in England and was the youngest of four children (his nickname was Bertie). His parents received an inheritance and bought a small store that wasn’t very successful. His father supplemented their income by playing professional cricket and his mother earned some income as a part-time domestic servant.
When Herbert was 8, he had an accident and broke his leg and was bedridden for several months. He considered it a pivotal point in his life because he realized then that he loved reading. It was like a light switch went off and his dad kept going to the library to return and pick-up more and more books for him. Even at that young age, he thought about becoming a writer, so he began working on some short stories.
His parents were adamant that their children have great educations so Herbert and his siblings were sent to private schools. When he was eleven his father fractured his leg and could no longer play cricket. so the children had to leave school. Herbert at the age of 11 had to begin an internship away from home with a drapery company. He hated it because for three years he worked 18-hour days and slept in a dorm with other interns; it was basically slave labor. He included this terrible experience as part of a plot in one of his books.
When the children were home the household was often turbulent because their parents fought quite a bit. Their mother was a Protestant who believed in the importance of attending church while their father was more of a free-thinking atheist. When things got worse, money wise, she took a job as a full-time maid servant and was required to live at the residence of her employer. so the kids had to take care of each other.
One great benefit that Herbert received with his mother working for a prominent family is that they gave him access to their tremendous library. so he began reading classic books like Plato’s Republic and More’s Utopia. It fed his imagination further for becoming a writer.
When he was 13, he received an opportunity to attend an amazing private school because of a distant relative who worked there as a teacher but after just a few months, his relative lost his job and Herbert was asked to leave. He loved learning and had plans to find a way to get into another good school but while working towards this, his parents set up an apprenticeship for Herbert as a chemist which he didn’t enjoy at all.
Anyone close to him knew he was extremely intelligent and most saw him becoming a professor someday. He received a scholarship when he was 16 to attend a private school where he wouldn’t only be a pupil, but they also wanted him to help teach both Latin and Science. I find this amazing.
He was mostly teaching his last couple of years at the school. While there he created a Science Journal where he published a story that eventually led to his famous book: The Time Machine. By the way this book was turned into movies and is part of successful primetime television shows called: Timeless and Time after Time.
Because it was paying the bills, Herbert decided to officially get accredited for teaching and attended the College of Teachers where he got a teaching degree. He then went to London University and got a Bachelor of Science Degree in Zoology. He was interested in the subject at the time. He began teaching at the School of Science and his first published book was a biology textbook.
He left the school to take a sabbatical and moved in with his aunt. While there he fell in love with her daughter Isabel (his cousin), and they married in 1891, when he was 25. He began teaching again and three years later fell in love with one of his students (Amy Catherine Robbins), so he and Isabel divorced. He was married to Amy for around 35 years until her death and he never remarried.
When Herbert and Amy got married, they moved to an area just outside of London. It was at this time that he became more serious about becoming a science fiction author. He already had all kinds of notes together for different stories, but he hadn’t taken the time to put them in actual manuscripts.
In his late 20’s he sent his The Time Machine manuscript to a publisher and it became a huge hit. Fans didn’t wait long as he quickly followed up with The Island of Doctor Moreau. He was an immediate success and money began pouring in.
They bought a large home and after a while Herbert started having numerous affairs which Amy knew about. They had two children named George and Frank and they both died in the 1980’s. He had another son and a daughter through his extramarital affairs.
He kept pumping out hit after hit of science fictions, but he also wrote other books as well and probably the most lucrative one for him was The Outline of History that was published in 1920. He owned the science fiction book market at that point but there was also a huge market for non-fiction history books and his became extremely popular.
Herbert also wrote many books that dealt with mankind in general and the pursuit of better ways for our society to live. His book Men Like Gods is about an alternate universe of mankind 3,000 years ahead of ours and it points out how barbaric and naïve our thoughts are about the world compared to the evolution of thought in the future. What a creative imagination.
Herbert published over 100 books with 50 of them being novels. Considering he didn’t have a computer to do his writings, it’s almost a miracle that he was this productive. He won numerous awards and was nominated for a Nobel Prize in Literature four times.
One thing I find interesting is that his novel War of the Worlds which he wrote in 1898, had mediocre sales until the panic that took place when Orson Welles did his famous War of the Worlds radio broadcast 40 years later on Halloween night. People all around the world heard about Welles’ broadcast and the panic that ensued so Herbert’s book became a top seller.
Herbert suffered from diabetes and co-founded: The Diabetic Association. He died on August 13, 1946 at the age of 79 (Amy had died 19 years earlier). The cause of death was in question, some thought it was due to complications from diabetes while others thought it was a heart attack. Regardless, the life he lived was astounding.
I believe H.G. Wells is the greatest science fiction writer of all time. I know some believe Jules Verne to be and they’d have a good case, but when Herbert created a world 3,000 years in the future that addressed politics, social issues, technology, etc., he proved to me that he was absolutely incredible.