Robert Anson Heinlein
Inducted - Tuesday, August 23, 2016
Where is Robert Anson Heinlein in the Hall of Famous Missourians?
The world’s pre-eminent Science Fiction writer in the mid-20th century. Heinlein’s influence—widespread and profound—still echoes today in SF, science, engineering, medicine, space exploration, politics, television, movies, plays, music, and blood donation. Joking he wrote “for Joe’s beer money,” he felt his greatest contribution to our species was the generations of young people who became technologists because of his writing. Heinlein—born in Butler, raised and educated in Kansas City, US Naval Academy graduate in 1929—hoped for a Navy career, but medically retired in 1934. His first story was published in 1939, and by 1941 he was the dominant writer in SF, merging realistic science and a readable style. After serving as a Navy research engineer during WWII, he led SF out of the “pulps” into the mainstream in publications such as The Saturday Evening Post. His 1950 movie Destination Moon won an Oscar, inspiring a new generation to become NASA engineers. The Heinlein canon is 46 volumes—the “Virginia Edition” named for his third wife Virginia “Ginny” Gerstenfeld (1916-2003), a stunningly accomplished woman herself. Four Heinlein novels won SF’s Hugo Award: Double Star, Starship Troopers, Stranger In A Strange Land, and The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress. In 1975 the Science Fiction Writers of America chose Heinlein as its first Grand Master. His fans still proudly call themselves “Heinlein’s Children” to honor, in the words of his NASA Distinguished Service Medal, “A man dedicated to encouraging others to dream, explore and achieve.”