On September 21, 1866, just one year after slavery was abolished in the US, a boy was born to former domestic servant Sarah Neal and her husband, a shopkeeper and professional cricket player, Joseph Wells. He was the fourth child to join the humble family in Bromley, Kent, yet would grow up to influence countless writers, artists, academics, designers and inventors. That boy was Herbert George Wells. More commonly known as H. G. Wells.
When he was just 8 years old, Wells broke his leg and was left bedridden and bored. His father Joseph started bringing him books from the local library, and Herbert would pass the time reading. He became obsessed with the worlds he read about and was inspired to start creating and writing about his own.
H. G. Wells had a fascinating life. He attended a private school and learned how to create “copperplate handwriting,” apprenticed as a draper at the Southsea Drapery Emporium, became a student teacher at the National School at Wookey, apprenticed as a chemist in Midhurst and, after many more teaching positions, eventually became the writer and artist we know today.
From science fiction works like The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, and The War of Worlds to the more realistic novels he wrote like Kipps and Tono-Bungay, it’s impossible not to note the genius that was H. G. Wells. In fact, some of Wells’ works are responsible for inspiring physicists and inventors around the world.
Robert H. Goddard was inspired to create the first liquid-fueled rocket in 1926 after reading H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. And in 1932, Leo Szilard read The World Set Free, which inspired him to solve the problem of “creating a nuclear chain reaction” only a year later. According to the Smithsonian, “The same book would inspire Szilard to campaign for arms control and the peaceful, international use of nuclear power after World War II.”
Science fiction inspires people everywhere. So today, let’s enjoy a little inspiration from the many book cover designs of H. G. Wells.
Editor’s note: Some of the book covers are missing credits for the artists. If you have any information about who created these book covers, we would love to know. Reach us in the comments below or @printmag.
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