Jules Verne: A Man Ahead of His Time: Background information when reading Eighty Days

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Eighty Days

Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland's History-Making Race Around the World

by Matthew Goodman

Eighty Days by Matthew Goodman
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2013, 480 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2014, 496 pages

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Beyond the Book:
Jules Verne: A Man Ahead of His Time

Print Review

February 8, 2013 would have been Jules Verne's 185th birthday. The acclaimed author is considered the father of science fiction and wrote many novels, some of the most well-known being Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Journey to the Center of the Earth, From the Earth to the Moon, and, of course, Around the World in Eighty Days which plays an important part in Matthew Goodman's Eighty Days.

Two years ago, on Verne's birthday, National Geographic featured eight modern inventions that are surprisingly – or maybe not so surprisingly – similar to inventions created by Verne himself.

Check them out!

1964 3-person submarine AlvinElectric Submarines – Captain Nemo, from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, travels the underwater world in Nautilus, his electric submarine, which bears a striking resemblance to the real Alvin, a 1964 three-person sub. The idea of a vehicle like this running on electricity was a mere magical thought in Verne's time.

Newscasts – Verne wrote an article in 1889 in which he created an alternative to newspapers; he said that the news would, instead, "be spoken to subscribers." The first real newscast didn't happen until 1920.

Solar Sails – This time the "prediction" came from Verne's From the Earth to the Moon. He imagined a light-propelled spacecraft, and now solar sails actually exist.

Lunar Modules – Also in From the Earth to the Moon, which, by the way, was written in 1865, Verne described missiles that could take people to the moon.

Skywriting – In that same 1889 article, which was titled "In the Year 2889", he wrote about what he called "atmospheric advertisements." Very similar to the skywriting that we see today.

Videoconferencing – According to Technovelgy.com Verne's "phonotelephote" is possibly the first reference in fiction to a videophone. This was, again, in his 1889 article.

Taser – Go back to Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and Verne describes a gun that produces a large electric jolt. He wrote this book in 1870 and tasers were invented in 1974…over 100 years later.

Project Mercury spacecraftSplashdown Spacecraft – Finally, in From the Earth to the Moon, Verne envisioned a spacecraft that could land in the ocean and float much like the Project Mercury spacecrafts.

Jules Verne didn't have a background in science or any formal training but he was fascinated by science and he listened to people who knew things about it. He was also a keen observer and, above all else, a brilliant storyteller, which is why his works have endured for so long in so many forms.

This article was originally published in March 2013, and has been updated for the March 2014 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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