How much was Isaac Asimov worth?
|Net Worth:||$15 Million|
|Date of Birth:||January 2, 1920|
Who Is Isaac Asimov
Isaac Asimov was the author of more than 470 books and innumerable scientific articles, short stories, and essays. Asimov is best remembered for his science fiction books, leading him to be considered one of science fiction’s founding fathers. Especially noteworthy were Asimov’s seven books in the Foundation saga and his I, Robot series that explained the Three Laws of Robotics.
Isaac Asimov, however, was also a prolific non-fiction writer, holding a Ph.D. in chemistry and a professorship at Boston University School of Medicine.
- Dates: January 2, 1920 — April 6, 1992
- Also Known As: Isaak Yudovick Ozimov (born as)
- Famous Quote: Barbara Walters once asked Asimov, “What if the doctor gave you six months to live. What would you do?” Isaac’s answer, “Type faster.”
The Asimov Family
Isaac Asimov was born in Petrovichi, Russia, sometime between October 4, 1919 and January 2, 1920. Between keeping a Jewish calendar and Russia’s use of a Julian rather than a Gregorian calendar, dates didn’t precisely translate as his parents moved to the United States. When they arrived in the United States. on February 3, 1923, they declared Isaac’s birth date as January 2, which he continued to observe.
Isaac’s parents, Anna and Judah Asimov, did not speak or read English when they came the United States. For three years, Judah worked at a number of odd jobs, saving money so that he was
ultimately able to open a candy store in Brooklyn.
The candy store was family owned and operated. That meant that the whole family worked there, including Isaac, his younger sister Marcia, and his younger brother Stanley. It was the candy store that helped them survive the Great Depression, in a large part because Judah worked extreme hours (from 6:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m.) to keep it afloat. Judah passed this extreme work ethic on to his son.
A Showoff in School
Isaac Asimov liked school, probably because he was good at it. However, he was also clever, sharp-tongued, self-centered, conceited, and thought nothing of correcting other students or the teacher when he thought them wrong. Because of this, he was not well-liked by fellow students or most of the teachers.
For the most part, Asimov was a loner, an outsider, and was quite content with his own company and a good book. Asimov was a voracious reader, reading books on a huge range of topics. He loved the Iliad, which he read repeatedly, but also loved Greek mythology and 19th century fiction.
Once Asimov had convinced his father that the science-fiction, pulp magazines sold at the candy store were about “science,” he read those quickly and carefully and then put them back on the rack to sell. He soon became a major science-fiction fan.
It wasn’t long before Asimov decided to start making up his own stories.
In 1931, at age eleven, Asimov started writing his very first story, The Greenville Chums at College, based strongly on tales of the Rover Boys he was reading. However, after eight chapters he gave it up because he didn’t know enough about college and didn’t have an ending.
Although the story was never finished, Asimov was encouraged when another boy at school, who heard Asimov retell the story of The Greenville Chums, thought that the story came from an already-published book. This compliment kept Asimov writing.
Extremely bright, Asimov was frequently pushed ahead a grade. Then in 1932, 12-year-old Asimov was selected to attend 10th grade at Boys High School, Brooklyn’s elite public school for bright students. He did well there academically, but was no longer the brightest star by far. It was quite a shock to Asimov, who thought very highly of himself.
Asimov graduated in 1935 at age 15 and applied to Columbia College at Columbia University, but was turned down because their Jewish quota was full. Asimov eventually attended Morningside Heights, part of Columbia College, and graduated with a B.S. in 1939.
Isaac Asimov’s First Published Story
While still in college, Asimov had been writing and submitting fan letters to science fiction magazines, discussing what stories he liked and what he didn’t like. The letters were being published. In 1937, 17-year-old Asimov decided it was time to write his own science-fiction story.
It took him a little over a year to finish his first story, “Cosmic Corkscrew.” Once finished, Asimov took his father’s advice and rode the subway to Manhattan so that he could hand in his story in person to John Campbell, the editor of Astounding Stories. To Asimov’s surprise, Mr. Campbell saw him, partly because he recognized Asimov’s name from the fan letters.
Although Campbell rejected that first story, he also sent Asimov some suggestions for improvement. Asimov immediately started writing a new story. Asimov’s first six stories were all rejected, but with Campbell’s guidance, Asimov was becoming a better writer.
On October 21, 1938, Isaac Asimov sold his first story to one of Campbell’s competitors, Amazing Stories (it appeared in March 1939). A year later, Asimov sold his second story, “Callistan Menace,” to Astonishing (appearing in April 1940). Eventually, Campbell bought a story called “Trends,” which appeared in July 1939 in Astounding Stories. Asimov regularly sold stories from then on.
During his senior year in college, Asimov earned $197 in writing fees, which was great but not nearly enough to make a living at writing. Thus, Asimov headed to graduate school.
It was 1939, the Great Depression was still in full swing and thus jobs were hard to get. Also, 19-year-old Asimov didn’t feel ready to enter the work force. So instead of looking for a job, Asimov decided to follow his father’s dream for him – to become a doctor.
While applying for graduate schools, Asimov was limited as to which schools he could apply for because he really did not want to leave the New York City area. He was a homebody and hated to travel – something that stayed with him all his life. So, he applied to five nearby medical schools. He was turned down by all of them.
It was time to rethink his future. Asimov decided instead to apply for a Ph.D. in chemistry. He had not taken all the prerequisites for that, so he was admitted provisionally to the master’s program in chemistry at Columbia.
While at graduate school, Asimov kept writing. It was while he was at Columbia that 21-year-old Asimov had his 32nd short story, “Nightfall” (1941), published and his reputation made. “Nightfall,” about a world where the stars only showed once in a thousand years, was later (in 1968) named by the Science Fiction Writers of America as the best science-fiction short story ever written.
Also in 1941, Asimov published his short story, “Liar,” in which he first coined the term “robotics.” Then, just a year later, Asimov’s story, “Runaround,” first introduced his Three Laws of Robotics, which still govern science-fiction robot stories today.
Love and Marriage
Asimov was always busy. First it was working at his father’s candy store, then school, then reading, then writing; thus, Asimov had little time for dating. He actually didn’t go on his first date until he was 20. However, while he was in the master’s program at Columbia, Asimov dated a graduate student who broke his heart when she finished her degree and moved on to other things.
A year and a half later, in February 1942, a friend convinced Asimov to go on a blind date with Gertrude Blugerman. Six months later, they married. Gertrude and Isaac had two children: David (born August 20, 1951) and Robyn (born February 19, 1955).
World War II Service
Isaac Asimov lacked enthusiasm for chemistry, especially lab work, yet he managed to complete his master’s degree and then be admitted to the PhD program at Columbia in February 1942. However, by then the United States was involved in World War II and Asimov was eligible for the draft.
Rather than become cannon fodder, Asimov joined the war effort in May 1942 in a different way – by working in Philadelphia at the Naval Air Experimental Station (NAES) as a chemist. Gertrude joined him in Philadelphia after they were married; however, she was miserably unhappy about being so far away from her family.
Asimov worked at the NAES for over three years but didn’t do well there — mainly because Asimov, still as sure of himself as ever, frequently butted heads with his superiors.
Although his job at the NAES had not been a success, it had managed to keep him away from the front lines. Just when the war was over, Asimov was extremely surprised to receive a draft letter on September 7, 1945 – five days after V-J Day.
After reporting for duty on November 1, 1945 and then undergoing basic training, Asimov’s unit was assigned to Bikini Atoll in order to participate in tests of an atomic bomb.
While waiting with his unit in Hawaii for transport to Bikini, Asimov had an incident that he considered to be the “greatest turning point” in his social life. When another soldier was describing the workings of an atomic bomb – and getting it all horribly wrong – Asimov considered interjecting himself into the conversation as he normally would in order to correct the error and show off his intellect. This time, however, Asimov decided not to do that; instead, he just sat back down.
From then on, Asimov answered questions or gave explanations only when asked. His social standing greatly improved with this change in his personality.
As it turned out, Asimov never made it to the Bikini Atoll. A mess up with paperwork sent him back to the States and he was discharged on July 26, 1945, after serving just under nine months.
Post-War Study and Teaching
In 1948, Isaac Asimov returned to Columbia, completed his PhD, and, after a year of post-doctoral study, begrudgingly took a position as an associate professor of biochemistry at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM). (He would rather have worked solely as an author but he still wasn’t being paid enough to do so.) Asimov was to work there for nine years.
Asimov’s job at BUSM involved research, writing scientific papers, and lecturing. Asimov, however, avoided research and thus had very little new to publish in scientific papers. On the other hand, Asimov was a natural as a lecturer, making difficult concepts clear and adding just enough humor to keep the audience engaged in learning.
While at BUSM, Asimov collaborated with two other professors on a textbook, Biochemistry and Human Metabolism, which came out in 1951. It was important for not only being his first non-fiction book, but also because he realized from the tedious process of writing with others, not to do it again.
Also during his time at BUSM, Asimov began writing non-fiction, scientific articles that were less formal than the usual ones and even added a bit of humor. Over his lifetime, Asimov wrote thousands of these.
Eventually, Asimov’s lack of scientific research caught up with him and he was let go from his job at BUSM in 1958. But that was okay for he was already making three times as much at writing as he was at his day job.
I Robot and Foundation
For many years, Isaac Asimov lived a dual life: by day he was a scientist and in the evenings and on weekends, he was a science-fiction writer. He worked this way while at school as well as when he worked at BUSM.
But it was while at BUSM that Asimov started writing more than just articles – he began to write novels. His very first science-fiction novel, Pebble in the Sky, was published by Doubleday in 1950. His second novel The Stars, Like Dust was published in 1951.
Asimov, as he would be for the rest of his life, was prolific. In just the 1950s alone, he wrote a total of 32 books, 19 of which were science fiction and included a set of six juvenile novels.
The most important of these were his I, Robot and his three Foundation novels. All four of these novels were collections of articles that he had written in the 1940s.
I, Robot (first published in 1950) begins with an introduction that is a fictional interview with character Susan Calvin, a top “robopsychologist” for a company called U.S. Robot Mechanical Men, Inc. The nine chapters that follow all explore the challenges of humans and robots living together, even with the Three Laws of Robotics. (These chapters include Asimov’s earlier stories of “Liar” and “Runaround.”)
Asimov’s Foundation series began with three novels published in the 1950s and then expanded with two prequels and two sequels written in the 1980s and 1990s. Again, the first three novels were actually a collection of Asimov’s previously-published, science-fiction articles – also with a newly written introduction. The three books were called Foundation (1951), Foundation and Empire (1952), and Second Foundation (1953).
For the Foundation series, Asimov, who had always been interested in history but not interested in the research needed to dig out historical facts, decided to create his own future universe and write its history. In Foundation, Asimov’s fictional hero, Hari Seldon, develops a branch of mathematics that predicts the future when looking at a large scale of data. Seldon creates the Foundation to preserve human history for the inevitable collapse of Earth and its off-world colonies.
Asimov as a Writer
Isaac Asimov was simply an amazing, prolific writer. He liked to work at home, preferred artificial light to sunlight, and arranged his desk to face a blank wall. Then he typed and typed on his typewriter (later, a word processor).
Asimov usually worked on a number of writing projects at the same time. This allowed him to never face writer’s block, for if he was stuck on what to write for one project, he would just switch to another.
Since Asimov never smoked, drank, or used drugs, his mind was always clear for writing, which he preferred to do over everything else. He wrote seven days a week from early morning until late at night and even wrote when forced to take vacations.
This work ethic helped Asimov to write 471 books – that’s an average of 13 books per year in the years between when he first turned to writing and by 1990 when he was working on his last autobiography.
Asimov had diverse interests and thus he wrote books covering every Dewey Decimal library designation except philosophy. These subjects obviously included science fiction and biochemistry, but also physics, mathematics, mysteries, juvenile novels, histories, and classic literature. He even wrote Asimov’s Guide to the Bible and Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare.
According to Asimov’s autobiography, the most difficult subject for him to write was science fiction and the most fun he had writing was when working on his autobiographies.
Isaac Asimov wrote and wrote and wrote, which obviously had to take a toll on his family life.
Marriage and Family Changes
Asimov and Gertrude had not known each other well when they were first married and they did not really grow closer together with time. Both had considered divorce earlier, but they had two young kids to think about.
In 1970, when his son was 18 and daughter was 15, Asimov decided it was time to leave. However, Gertrude did not and fought him bitterly through the divorce. After three years, the divorce was finally legal.
When Asimov left Gertrude, he was already in love with someone else – Janet Jeppson, a psychiatrist and science-fiction fan. The two had met briefly at a book signing in 1958 but more formally at a 1959 banquet for the Mystery Writers of America. The two became instant friends and kept up a secret correspondence for the next eleven years.
The friendship had been more than platonic, but it wasn’t until they met again in 1970 after his separation that the two decided they would marry. Shortly after his divorce was finalized, Asimov (53 years old) and Janet (46 years old) married on November 30, 1973. They stayed happily married for 18 years, until Asimov’s death in 1992.
Illness and Death
In 1977, 57-year-old Asimov was on a speaking tour when he suffered a heart attack. Not one to go directly to doctors, he kept working for a week before he went to one; he was then immediately sent to a hospital. While convalescing in the hospital, Asimov worked on his autobiography. Once released, Asimov continued his usual, hefty pace of writing.
Over the next six years, Asimov suffered from angina pains. At first he could ignore them, but it progressed to the point where he had trouble walking from place to place. On December 14, 1983, Asimov underwent a triple-bypass surgery. Even after this major surgery, Asimov kept writing.
In 1990, his wife Janet convinced him to write the third volume of his autobiography, not necessarily chronological but talking about whatever interested him. He filled 547 pages with tributes to fellow writers, publishers, details about his life and interests, and opinions on many subjects.
After two years of increasingly bad health, 72-year-old Isaac Asimov died on April 6, 1992, not at his keyboard as he had hoped, but in bed with his family present.
In 2002, Janet, edited a book (Isaac Asimov: It’s Been a Good Life) that contained excerpts of Isaac Asimov’s thoughts and feelings on different topics. In the “Epilogue,” Janet revealed that Asimov’s death was due to complications from AIDS, contracted from a blood transfusion during the 1983 heart-bypass operation.
The Three Laws of Robotics dictated that 1) a robot may not injure a human being, or through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm; 2) a robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law; 3) a robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.