H. G. Wells

21 Sep 1866 - 13 Aug 1946

Also known as: H. G. Wells

Short Fiction


Herbert George Wells, known commonly as H.G. Wells, was born the youngest of four on September 21, 1866 in Kent, England, to parents Sarah and Joseph. Joseph was a gardener, described as “irresponsible, irresolute, and happy-go-lucky;” by contrast, Sarah, a lady’s maid, was “anxious, devout, long- suffering, and scrupulous in recording her complaints against Joe in the diary that she kept” (Parrinder). Their dramatically different personalities shaped Wells’ future work—indeed, he became known as self-contradictory in his role as a literary figure and political thinker. After a few failed apprenticeships while a young adult, Wells went to school as a pupil teacher and then he became a student Thomas Huxley’s at the Normal School. Huxley proved Wells’ most influential teacher, and his course on elementary biology and zoology is apparent in many of Wells’ later publications.

While he began his studies with a series of hard science classes in preparation to become a pharmacist, Wells soon pivoted to literature and politics. Though popular and admired, as well as motivated to make social change by founding and editing the Science Schools Journal, Wells’ academic success faltered and he soon left the Normal School without a degree. Instead, he turned to teaching. In an odd accident, Wells received a dramatic injury while playing soccer with his students, suffering from a crushed kidney and a series of lung hemorrhages, and was diagnosed with tuberculosis. He was forced to resign, and, because his health soon collapsed again, he had to give up teaching altogether. He reluctantly took up freelance journalism. As we know, this path proved hugely successful.

H.G. Wells was known for his short figure and high voice. Though he published in many different genres, he most preferred to be recognized as a novelist. He published his first two novels, Love and Mr. Lewisham and Anticipations of the Reaction of Mechanical and Scientific Progress upon Human Life and Thought, within a year of each other (The H.G. Wells Society). He was constantly evolving in his views, never shying away from controversy but also never unwilling to admit where he had been wrong. He has been described as prophetic, but also irascible; his “emotionalism ruined some of his political interventions,” according to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, while his kindness won him many friends (Sherborne). He passed away in his sleep on 13 August 1846; today, he is remembered as a novelist and the founder of modern science fiction.

Further Reading

Sherborne, Michael. H.G. Wells: Another Kind of Life. Peter Owen, 2012, pp. 148-149.

Parrinder, Patrick. "Wells, Herbert George (1866–1946), Novelist and Social Commentator." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2011. www.oxforddnb.com.erl.lib.byu.edu/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-36831. Accessed 11 Feb 2019.