One of the most important people in the world of robotics isn’t a conventional roboticist at all, but a science fiction author.
Isaac Asimov grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., reading pulp sci-fi magazines in his father’s candy store. Because the magazines had “science” in the title, he was able to convince his father that it was educational. It was the 1930s, and the popular perception of robots (if and when they became real) was that they were more monster than assistant. It was a perception that Asimov would unwittingly change forever.
Asimov’s imagination was completely captured by robots. He began writing and publishing speculative fiction in the late 1930s in which robots featured prominently. The short version of the story is that he simply never stopped after that, writing up a storm until his death in 1992.
Asimov wrote and edited a combined total of some 500 books in his lifetime (that’s right, five-hundred). And he didn’t stop at science fiction. His bibliography of published work famously spans nine of the 10 major categories of the Dewey Decimal System. Check out this description of his body of work from Wikipedia:
The prolific Asimov also wrote mysteries and fantasy, as well as much nonfiction. Most of his popular science books explain scientific concepts in a historical way, going as far back as possible to a time when the science in question was at its simplest stage. He often provides nationalities, birth dates, and death dates for the scientists he mentions, as well as etymologies and pronunciation guides for technical terms. Examples include Guide to Science, the three volume set Understanding Physics, Asimov’s Chronology of Science and Discovery, as well as works on astronomy, mathematics, the Bible, William Shakespeare’s writing and chemistry.
He was a member of Mensa, a professor of biochemistry at Boston University, and even has an asteroid named after him. It’s no wonder that he was one of the subjects of a Science Channel miniseries called “Prophets of Science Fiction.” In it, authors, roboticists, and scientists from a variety of disciplines take you through Asimov’s life and work, pointing out all the modern implementations of robots that he foresaw decades ahead of time.