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Biography

Asimov was born between October 4, 1919 and January 2, 1920[1] in Petrovichi in the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (near the modern border with Belarus) to Anna Rachel (Berman) Asimov and Judah Asimov, a family of Jewish millers. While his exact date of birth is uncertain, Asimov himself celebrated it on January 2.[1] The family name derives from a word for winter crops which his great-grandfather dealt, to which a patronymic suffix was added. This word is spelled '' in Russian, and '' in Belorussian.[12] Accordingly, his name originally was in Russian and in Belorussian; however he was later known in Russia as Ayzek Azimov ( ),[13] a Russian Cyrillic adaptation of the American English pronunciation. Asimov had two younger siblings; a sister, Marcia (born Manya,[14] June 17, 1922 April 2, 2011[15]), and a brother, Stanley (July 25, 1929 August 16, 1995[16]), who was vice-president of New York Newsday.[17][18] His family emigrated to the United States when he was three years old. Since his parents always spoke Yiddish and English with him, he never learned Russian.[19] Growing up in Brooklyn, New York City, Asimov taught himself to read at the age of five[20] and remained fluent in Yiddish as well as English.[21] Asimov wrote of his father, "My father, for all his education as an Orthodox Jew, was not Orthodox in his heart", and "he didn't recite the myriad prayers prescribed for every action, and he never made any attempt to teach them to me."[22] His parents owned a succession of candy stores, and everyone in the family was expected to work in them.

Education and career


Asimov began reading science fiction pulp magazines at a young age.[23] His father, as a matter of principle, forbade reading the pulps, as he considered them to be trash, but Asimov persuaded him that the science fiction magazines had "Science" in the title, so they were educational. Around the age of eleven, he began to write his own stories, and by age nineteenafter he discovered science fiction fandomhe was selling stories to the science fiction magazines. John W. Campbell, then editor of Astounding Science Fiction, had a strong formative influence on Asimov and eventually became a personal friend.[24] Asimov attended New York City public schools, including Boys High School in Brooklyn.[25] Graduating at 15, he went on to Seth Low Junior College, a branch of Columbia University in Brooklyn designed to absorb some of the Jewish and Italian-American students who applied to Columbia College, then the institution's primary undergraduate school for men with quotas on the number of admissions from those ethnic groups. Originally a zoology major, Asimov changed his subject to chemistry after his first semester as he disapproved of "dissecting an alley cat". After Seth Low Junior College closed in 1938, Asimov finished his BS degree at University Extension (later the Columbia University School of General Studies) in 1939. When he failed to secure admission to medical school, he applied to the graduate program in chemistry at

Columbia; initially rejected and then only accepted on a probationary basis, Asimov completed his MA in chemistry in 1941 and earned a PhD in biochemistry in 1948. In between, he spent three years during World War II working as a civilian at the Philadelphia Navy Yard's Naval Air Experimental Station. After the war ended, he was drafted into the U.S. Army, serving for almost nine months before receiving an honorable discharge. In the course of his brief military career, he rose to the rank of corporal on the basis of his typing skills, and narrowly avoided participating in the 1946 atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll. Robert A. Heinlein and L. Sprague de Camp with Asimov, Philadelphia Navy Yard, 1944. After completing his doctorate, Asimov joined the faculty of the Boston University School of Medicine, with which he remained associated thereafter.[26] From 1958, this was in a nonteaching capacity, as he turned to writing full-time (his writing income had already exceeded his academic salary). Being tenured, he retained the title of associate professor, and in 1979 the university honored his writing by promoting him to full professor of biochemistry. Asimov's personal papers from 1965 onward are archived at the university's Mugar Memorial Library, to which he donated them at the request of curator Howard Gottlieb. The collection fills 464 boxes, or seventy-one meters of shelf space.

Personal life
Asimov married Gertrude Blugerman (1917, Canada1990, Boston) on July 26, 1942. They had two children, David (b. 1951) and Robyn Joan (b. 1955). In 1970 they separated and Asimov moved back to New York, this time to Manhattan, where he lived for the rest of his life. He immediately began seeing Janet O. Jeppson, and married her two weeks after his divorce from Gertrude in 1973.[27] Asimov was a claustrophile: he enjoyed small, enclosed spaces.[28] In the third volume of his autobiography, he recalls a childhood desire to own a magazine stand in a New York City Subway station, within which he could enclose himself and listen to the rumble of passing trains while reading.[29] Asimov was afraid of flying,[30] only doing so twice in his entire life (once in the course of his work at the Naval Air Experimental Station, and once returning home from the army base in Oahu in 1946)[30] Consequently, he seldom traveled great distances. This phobia influenced several of his fiction works, such as the Wendell Urth mystery stories and the Robot novels featuring Elijah Baley. In his later years, he found he enjoyed traveling on cruise ships, and on several occasions he became part of the cruises' "entertainment", giving science-themed talks on ships such as the RMS Queen Elizabeth 2.[30] Asimov was an able public speaker and was a frequent fixture at science fiction conventions, where he was friendly and approachable.[30] He patiently answered tens of thousands of questions and other mail with postcards, and was pleased to give autographs. He was of medium height, stocky, with mutton chop whiskers and a distinct New York accent. His physical dexterity was very poor. He never learned to swim or ride a bicycle; however, he did learn to drive a car after

he moved to Boston. In his humor book Asimov Laughs Again, he describes Boston driving as "anarchy on wheels".[31] Asimov's wide interests included his participation in his later years in organizations devoted to the comic operas of Gilbert and Sullivan[30] and in The Wolfe Pack,[32] a group of devotees of the Nero Wolfe mysteries written by Rex Stout. Many of his short stories mention or quote Gilbert and Sullivan.[33] He was a prominent member of the Baker Street Irregulars, the leading Sherlock Holmes society [30] having been admitted after writing an essay arguing that Professor Moriarty's work "The Dynamics of An Asteroid" involved the wilful destruction of an ancient civilized planet. (This was alluded to in the 2011 film Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows when Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) asks Moriarty (Jared Harris) to autograph this work, after which Moriarty asks after the health of "the Good Doctor"; a double-entendre meaning both Dr. Watson and Isaac Asimov, whose nickname it was.) He was also a member of the all-male literary banqueting club the Trap Door Spiders, which served as the basis of his fictional group of mystery solvers the Black Widowers.[34] In 1984, the American Humanist Association (AHA) named him the Humanist of the Year. He was one of the signers of the Humanist Manifesto.[35] From 1985 until his death in 1992, he served as president of the AHA, an honorary appointment; his successor was his friend and fellow writer Kurt Vonnegut. He was also a close friend of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, and earned a screen credit on Star Trek: The Motion Picture for advice he gave during production (generally, confirming to Paramount Pictures that Roddenberry's ideas were legitimate science-fictional extrapolation). Asimov was a founding member of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), now known as the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI).[36][37] The organization lists him as a fellow.[38]

Illness and death


Asimov suffered a heart attack in 1977, and had triple bypass surgery in December 1983. When he died in New York City on April 6, 1992, his brother Stanley reported heart and kidney failure as the cause of death.[39] He was survived by his second wife, Janet, and his children from his first marriage. Ten years after his death, Janet Asimov's edition of Asimov's autobiography, It's Been a Good Life, revealed that the myocardial and renal complications were the result of an infection by HIV, which he had contracted from a blood transfusion received during his bypass operation.[40] Janet Asimov wrote in the epilogue of It's Been a Good Life that Asimov's doctors advised him against going public, warning that the anti-AIDS prejudice would likely extend to his family members. Asimov's family considered disclosing his condition just after his death, but the controversy that erupted the same year when Arthur Ashe announced his own HIV infection (also contracted from a blood transfusion during heart surgery) convinced them otherwise. Ten years later, after most of Asimov's doctors had died, Janet and Robyn Asimov agreed that the HIV story should be made public.[