When reading novels about time travel, invisibility, and extraterrestrial beings, one would most likely assume that these novels have been written in the modern day. Interestingly, novels about these scientific topics were written by author H. G. Wells in the late 19th century. H. G. Wells is well-known as “a man ahead of his time,” being recognized for writing novels about advanced scientific concepts that had never crossed the minds of other people who lived during his lifetime. In addition to being knowledgeable in the sciences, H. G. Wells was also very opinionated in politics. Although H. G. Wells is not as well-known for his politics as he is for his sciences, many of his novels include examples of his political opinions, and others serve as complete allegories for his political ideas. What scientific and political elements did H. G. Wells include in his novels, and what inspired him to do so?
Wells is often credited with inventing the science fiction genre, and is known as one of the fathers of science fiction. Wells’ inspiration for writing about scientific elements was drawn from his education in the sciences, particularly biology. Wells studied at several schools in his early life, but most of his science education came from the Normal School of Science in South Kensington, where he studied biology under Professor Thomas Henry Huxley (Bergman). Huxley was one of the first supporters of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection, and he passed this knowledge on to Wells. This education in biology had a huge impact on Well’s life. Huxley completely changed Wells’ conservative way of thinking, and even influenced in his conversion from Christianity to atheism. “After studying under Huxley, ‘Darwinian evolution inspired Wells’ writings forever after’” (Bergman). The scientific elements in Wells’ novels usually appear as biological anomalies such as the martians in “The War of the Worlds”, and advanced scientific technology such as the time machine in “The Time Machine.”
H. G. Wells was not only well-educated in the sciences, but also very opinionated in politics. One of Wells’ main political beliefs was socialism. “Soon becoming enamored of socialism, Wells joined the Fabian Society, an intellectual, socialist movement that embraced reason and gradualism” (Domestico and Lewis). Another aspect of Wells’ political beliefs is futurology. According to Carl Rollyson, “Wells sought to show the direction in which history was headed… Through his imagination and reason, Wells indefatigably created fiction and philosophical treatises aimed at stimulating and teaching the world to think ahead.” These political views as well as others appear throughout many of Wells’ novels.
The Time Machine, published in 1895, is Wells’ first long-fiction novel (Rollyson). This novel tells the story of a man who invents a time machine and travels to the year 802,701 c.e., discovering that evolution has caused humans to evolve into two...