Ben Bova

On this date in 1932, Ben Bova was born in Philadelphia. Bova grew up in a poor working-class neighborhood, riddled-with crime, malnutrition and hardship. Raised a Roman Catholic, his first exposure to science, on a planetarium field trip, gave him hope for a better future for humanity. In a Freethought Radio interview on July 18, 2009, Bova said, "The Catholic Church teaches that faith is a gift from God, and it's a gift I never received apparently. It always seemed kind of strange to me that we're depending on this supernatural power and there's no real evidence that it exists." Young Bova became an avid science and science fiction reader, but when he reached college age, he feared majoring in science because of his lack of math skills. This led him to study journalism at Temple University (1954), which landed him a job as a newspaper editor. Not giving up on his passion for science, Bova became a technical writer for an aircraft company and then, in 1959, worked at MIT writing educational films. In 1987, Bova earned a master's in communications from the State University of New York at Albany, and a Ph.D. in Education, in 1996, from California Coast University. While holding various scientific research posts in the 1960s, Bova published popular science and science fiction books and articles. His increasing renown as a writer in the 1970s brought him his role for which he would be most acclaimed, editor of Analog, the popular science fiction magazine. As editor, Bova earned five consecutive Hugo Awards (1973 to 1977), and an additional Hugo in 1982 as fiction editor of Omni magazine.

Since his first novel (The Star Conquerors) was published in 1959, Dr. Bova has written 120 science fiction and nonfiction books. He previously served as president of Science Fiction Writers of America and a science analyst on CBS Morning News. Bova has taught science fiction at Harvard and film courses at other institutions, and has worked with Woody Allen, George Lucas and Gene Roddenberry. Currently he serves as President Emeritus of the National Space Society. Bova received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation (2005), was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2001), and, in 2008, won the Robert A. Heinlein Award "for his outstanding body of work in the field of literature." Dr. Bova's writings predicted solar power satellites, the discovery of organic chemicals in interstellar space, the space race of the 1960s, virtual reality, human cloning, stem cell therapy, the discovery of ice on the Moon, electronic book publishing and the Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars). Bova's novel, Mars Life (2008), explores the clash between science, politics and religion. His one page 1980 article in Discover magazine, "The Creationists' 'Equal Time,'" quickly became an inspirational classic among freethinkers. Bova said, "The difference between science and most religions is that science admits that we don't know everything." He called the failure of religion to question "not good for the human spirit or human understanding" (Interview on Freethought Radio, July 18, 2009).

Photo by Dd-B under CC 3.0

“When I started understanding how science works, it occurred to me that there just is no evidence that there is a God.”

—-Ben Bova, Interview on Freethought Radio, July 18, 2009

Compiled by Bonnie Gutsch

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