Herbert George Wells was born in Bromley on 21st September, 1866. After a basic education at a local school,
Wells was apprenticed as a draper. Wells disliked the work and in 1883 became a
pupil-teacher at Midhurst Grammar School. While at Midhurst Wells won a
scholarship to the School of Science where he was taught biology by T. H. Huxley.
Wells found Huxley an inspiring teacher.
He spent the next few years teaching and writing and in 1891 his major essay
on science, The Rediscovery of the Unique, was published in The
Fortnightly Review. In 1895 Wells established himself as a novelist in 1895
with his science fiction story, The Time Machine. This was followed by
two more successful novels, The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896) and The
War of the Worlds (1898).
Wells also became very popular in the United States. The popular magazine
Cosmopolitan serialised two of his books, The War of the Worlds
(1897) and First Man in the Moon (1900). His work also appeared in
Collier's Magazine, the New Republic and the Saturday Evening Post.
Wells also began writing non-fiction books about politics, technology and the
future. This included Anticipations of the Reaction of Mechanical and
Scientific Progress Upon Human Life and Thought (1901), The Discovery of
the Future (1902) and Mankind in the Making (1903).
His book A Modern Utopia expressed a desire for a society that was run
and organised by humanistic and well-educated people. Wells, who was extremely
critical of the role that privilege and hereditary factors in capitalist society
and in his utopia, people gain power as a result of their intelligence and
In his early scientific writings Wells predicted the invention of modern weapons
such as the tank and the atom bomb. He was therefore horrified by the outbreak
of the First World War. Unlike many socialists, he supported Britain's
involvement in the war, however, he believed politicians should use this
opportunity to create a new world order.
Wells was encouraged by the news of the communist revolution in Russia. He
visited the country and lectured Lenin and Trotsky on how they should run their
country. Wells was disillusioned by what he saw in Russia and in 1920 Wells
published The Outline of History. The book described human history since
the earliest times and attempted to show how society had evolved to the present
state. Wells illustrated the triumphs and failures and pointed out the dangers
that faced the human race. The main theme of The Outline of History was
that the world would be saved by education and not by revolution.
In his novel The Shape of Things to Come published in 1933, Wells
describes a world that had been devastated by decades of war and was now being
rebuilt by the use of humanistic technology. In 1936 the book was turned into a
very successful film.
In 1934 Wells visited the Soviet Union and the United States. Although Wells
clearly preferred what Roosevelt was trying to do, some people believed he was
far too sympathetic to Stalin. One of his main critics was his old adversary at
the Fabian Society, George Bernard Shaw.
Wells was appalled by the outbreak of the Second World War and wrote extensively
about the need to make sure that we used the conflict to establish a new,
rational world order. Herbert George Wells died on 13th August, 1946, while
working on a project that dealt with the dangers of nuclear war.