The late Arthur C Clarke who died this month (March 2008) wrote what may be regarded as his most memorable non-fiction article in 1945. He was the first person to propose the use of satellites in geostationary orbit to form part of a global communications network.
It was quite fitting that his orbital calculations and other details were entirely in metric in recognition of the future as seen from early post-war England.
It was a pity that in later years he became a victim of the failure of Britain and America to change over and leave non-metric in the past, which left him having to accommodate the measurement muddle in his writing.
"Even in this metric age it was still known as the thousand foot telescope, not the 300 metre one …" (from 2010 Odyssey two).
UKMA pays tribute to a man who was one of the most far-sighted people of the twentieth century who clearly recognised the value of the metric system in his work.
One thought on “Visionary sci-fi writer uses metric”
I’ve just come across this from “The Last Theorem” by Arthur C Clarke and Frederik Pohl (published shortly before Clarke’s death). It is a conversation between two characters Ranjit Subramanian and his wife Myra on tour presently in London discussing whether to visit New York:
Uncertain whether to laugh or cry, Myra set down her glass. “Oh, my darling,” she said, “You’ve never been in America, have you?”
Suddenly worried, Ranjit turned to face her. “What do you mean?”
She reached out to stroke his hand. “Just that you haven’t noticed that they’re pretty old fashioned in some ways. The way they still use miles instead of kilometres, for instance. And – I hope this won’t upset you – the way they cling to the Fahrenheit thermometer scale instead of going to Celsius along with the rest of the world?”
It seems that Clarke and Pohl were at least conscious of this issue even if they didn’t speak out about it otherwise.