Do you think you could make an accurate prediction about what amazing things will happen in the next 100 years? It wouldn’t be easy, but Jules Verne, the father of science fiction, did a good job of it in his own era.
Before Verne, there had been tales of people flying to the moon and engaging in other incredible adventures, but they were all pure fantasy.
Verne’s stories, on the other hand, were based on current research. He had an endless fascination with science, reading the latest books and journals and pumping the scientists he knew for the most recent information. When he hit upon an interesting discovery, he speculated about what could come of it, and from these speculations grew his famous novels.
Verne was born in Nantes, France, in 1828, in an era enthralled with the possibilities of science. He originally studied law, but after meeting a French balloonist, he wrote “Five Weeks in a Balloon” (1862), which described an adventurous balloon trip across Africa.
The book was an immediate success and launched him on a writing career in which he produced almost 100 books, some predicting future events fairly accurately.
For example, Verne wrote “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” in 1869, 30 years before there was a single ocean-going submarine. And the force that powered Verne’s submarine was electricity, at the time a mere laboratory curiosity.
For “20,000 Leagues,” Verne researched libraries and aquariums and even took a transatlantic steamship trip. He wrote most of the book on his sailing yacht to make sure he caught the feel of the sea.
Verne also was amazingly accurate with the predictions in his twin books, “From the Earth to the Moon” (published in 1865, more than 100 years before man actually landed on the moon) and “Round the Moon,” published in 1870. In the books Verne launched his spacecraft from Florida, just like the real lunar missions; he correctly described the velocity a spacecraft would have to obtain to leave Earth’s gravity; he described the effects of weightlessness; and he had his spacecraft land in the ocean, as happened with the real lunar missions.
Of course, he made one tremendous error. A spacecraft couldn’t be launched from a gun, as he proposed. It would be going so fast it would instantly burn up as it came out of the gun tube, and even if it survived, the passengers would be turned into jelly by the acceleration.
The predictions in some of his other works, such as “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” have also turned out to be badly mistaken. Though it is a fun book, hiking to the middle of the earth is impossible not just because caves don’t go that deep, but also because the interior of the earth is molten rock and metal.