Ben Bova

On this date in 1932, science writer Ben Bova was born in Philadelphia. Raised Catholic in a working-class neighborhood, 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.”

Attracted to science but fearing he lacked the math skills for it led him to study journalism at Temple University in Philadelphia (1954), which landed him a job as a newspaper editor. He then worked as a technical writer for an aircraft company and as a writer for educational films at MIT. He 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. His increasing renown as a writer in the 1970s brought him the 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 another in 1982 as fiction editor of Omni magazine.

After his first novel (“The Star Conquerors” in 1959), Bova wrote 140 futuristic and nonfiction books. “Earth,” the 25th in The Grand Tour series, was published in 2019. He served as president of Science Fiction Writers of America and a science analyst on “CBS Morning News.” He taught science fiction at Harvard and film courses at other institutions. He 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.”

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). His novel “Mars Life” (2008) explored the clash between science, politics and religion. His 1980 article in Discover magazine, “The Creationists’ ‘Equal Time,’ ” became an inspirational classic among freethinkers.

He was president of the Barbara Bova Literary Agency, founded by his wife in 1974. They had three children. She died in 2009 of cancer in Naples, Florida, where he also died at age 88. D. 2020.

PHOTO: Bova in 1974; photo by Dd-B under CC 3.0.

Freedom From Religion Foundation