Jules Verne - the science fiction prophet

Jules Verne - the science fiction prophet

"Ah - what a journey - what a marvelous and extraordinary journey! Here we had entered the earth by one volcano, and we had come out by another. And this other, was situated more than twelve hundred leagues from Sneffels, that drear country of Iceland cast away on the confines of the earth... We had abandoned the region of eternal snows for that infinite verdure, and had left over our heads the gray fog of the icy regions to come back to the azure sky of Sicily!" - (From A Journey to the Center of the Earth, 1864)


These words are an example of the unique storytelling style that captured the imagination of readers, both young and old - the author being Jules Verne, the co-founder of science fiction along with H.G. Wells. His works were often written in the form of a travel book transporting the readers on a virtual voyage - to the moon in From the Earth to the Moon (1865) and in A Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864). Among his best-known books is the classic adventure story Around the World in Eighty Days (1873). Such works represented the creative spirit of the 19th century, and its fascination with scientific progress and invention. Many of Verne's ideas have been considered prophetic.


Jules Gabriel Verne (1828 - 1905) 
Jules Gabriel Verne was born in the French port of Nantes, a city known for its prestigious maritime history. His father was a prosperous lawyer. Verne moved to Paris to study law. Here, his uncle introduced him into literary circles that inspired him to start writing. Writers like Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas influenced his early plays. Verne's one-act comedy The Broken Straws was performed in Paris when he was 22. In the meantime, he had also managed to obtain his law degree. 


Verne became a great admirer of Edgar Allan Poe's writing, having read translations of his works. His first science fiction work, 'An voyage in Balloon' (1851 was inspired by Poe. He went on to write The Sphinz of the Ice-Fields, a sequel to Poe's unfinished novel, A Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, in (1897).

He alternated between writing and stock-broking, an occupation he held until finding success in Five Weeks in a Balloon (1863) part of the series VOYAGES EXTRAORDINAIRES. In 1862 he met Pierre Jules Hetzel, a publisher and writer for children, who published Verne's 'Extraordinary Journeys'. Their alliance lasted right until the end of his career.


In the first part of his career Verne expressed his enthusiasm for technological progress. Verne's major works were written by 1880. Later novels reflect his pessimism about the future of human civilization. He combined science and invention with fast-paced adventure and some of his fiction have also become fact: his submarine Nautilus preceded the first successful power submarine by a quarter century. The first all-electric submarine, built in 1886, was named Nautilus in honor of Verne's vessel. The first nuclear-powered submarine, launched in 1955, was named Nautilus, as well. Also, his fictitious spaceship predicted development of the real one, a century later.


Verne's novels rapidly became popular throughout the world. Verne made up for his lack of formal scientific education and traveling experience, by spending much of his time in research for his books. Unlike fantasy literature on the lines of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, Verne tried to be realistic and practical. However, when the logic of the story contradicted contemporary scientific knowledge, he did not stick to the facts. 


Books by Jules Verne: 

Around the World in Eighty Days was about Philèas Fogg's daring but realistic travel exploits on a wager, based on a real journey by the US traveller George Francis Train (1829-1904).

A Journey to the Centre of the Earth is about an expedition to enter the hollow heart of the Earth and is subject to criticism on geological grounds. In Hector Servadac (1877) a comet takes Hector and his servant on a trip around the Solar System. On one of their adventures, they discover a fragment of the Rock of Gibraltar, occupied by two Englishmen playing chess.


Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea - introduced a favorite predecessor to modern superheroes, the enigmatic Captain Nemo and his elaborate submarine, Nautilus.

The Mysterious Island was about industrial exploits of men stranded on an island.

The Eternal Adam - a far-future historian discovers that the 20th-century civilization was overthrown by geological cataclysms. The legend of Adam and Eve becomes both true and cyclical.

Robur the Conqueror - predicted the birth of heavier-than-air craft. In the sequel, Master of the World (1904), the great inventor Robur suffers from megalomania, and plays cat-and-mouse game with authorities.



Verne traveled to the United States in 1867, visiting the Niagara Falls. On a boat trip around the Mediterranean, he enjoyed a great welcome in Gibraltar, North Africa. In Rome, Pope Leo XIII blessed his books.


Verne's works include 65 novels, some twenty short stories and essays, thirty plays, some geographical works, and also opera librettos. His superlative efforts in capturing the metaphysical element of a city like London - its houses, streets, clubs, squares and open spaces; the ghostliness of a Sunday afternoon, the melancholy of a man, a real walking phantom, as Phineas Fogg appears in Around the World in Eighty Days - have been an inspiration to many filmmakers and artistes. There have been a number of films - from A Trip to the Moon (1902), 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) by Walt Disney to Hollywood versions of Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959) and Five Weeks in a Balloon (1962).


The film version of Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea won an Oscar for its special effects. Studio sets were built as closely as possible to Verne's own descriptions of Nautilus. Mike Todd's film Around The World in 80 Days (1957) won an Academy Award for Best Picture.

For over 40 years Verne published at least a book a year on various subjects. For someone who wrote in such great depth about exotic places, he traveled relatively little - his only balloon flight lasted twenty-four minutes. In a letter, he wrote: "I must be slightly off my head. I get caught up in all the extraordinary adventures of my heroes. I regret only one thing, not being able to accompany them..."

Jules Verne died in Amiens on March 24, 1905.