Dr. Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) was born in Petrovichi, Russia to Jewish parents who emigrated to Brooklyn when he was three. Perturbed by the long walk to the public library, he began to write his own stories at age 11, starting with The Greenville Chums at College. Eight chapters later, he abandoned the work when he realized he had no idea what he was writing about, having yet to attend college.

Exposed to the then brand new genre of science fiction through pulp magazines in his family's candy store, where he worked, he began submitting stories to them. John W. Campbell at Astounding Science Fiction rejected his first three submissions, but Astounding Stories published the fourth, "Marooned Off Vesta," in 1939.

He spent most of World War II working at the Philadelphia Naval Yard participating in scientific experiments and later served a year in Army at the tail end of the conflict. In 1948 he earned his PhD in biochemistry from Columbia University and started teaching at Boston University. Preferring teaching and general science writing to, in his words, being merely a mediocre research scientist, he quit in 1958 to become a full-time writer.

And quite a writer he was, probably one of the most prolific in history. Depending on how you count them, he wrote around 500 books. It's been said that he wrote a book on every subject except animal husbandry. It isn't true that he has a book in every category of the Dewey Decimal System (he has no books in the 100s, philosophy), but his accomplishment of having so many books in so many different categories may be unsurpassed. Asimov, "the great explainer," wrote mostly about science, about every possible branch of science it seems, but also wrote a number of volumes on literature and history. He also wrote plenty of fiction, including humor and mysteries.

And of course, he is remembered for being one of the most important early writers of science fiction. His accomplishments include:

• The Foundation trilogy (well, it was originally a trilogy anyway) about a galactic empire and a new science called "psychohistory" which can predict the future with astounding accuracy. Asimov was inspired by Edward Gibbon's The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. In 1966, it won a Hugo award for best all-time novel series.

• The Robot Trilogy. When John Campbell said that it was impossible to write a science fiction detective story, Asimov promptly wrote The Caves of Steel, featuring police officer Elijah Bailey and lifelike robot R. Daneel Olivaw. The sequels were The Naked Sun and The Robots of Dawn.

• The robot short stories, especially I, Robot. Many of them feature U.S.Robots employee Susan Calvin investigating robot screw-ups and mysteries. For these stories, Asimov created the Three Laws of Robotics and coined the word "robotics".

• The novels The End of Eternity and The Gods Themselves.

• The short stories "Nightfall", "The Bicentennial Man", and "The Ugly Little Boy", all made into films.

Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, a pulp magazine that still exists.

Some critics dismiss his importance to the genre. A common complaint is that he could not write about aliens or sex. True, most of his stories were about humans and robots, but he wrote about both aliens and sex quite well in The Gods Themselves, and was proud of the novel because of that. Asimov's writing usually was not very exotic and contained little action, but as (I think) Orson Scott Card said, "Asimov's talk is action." But his seemingly tame writing and the fact that his innovations have been so thoroughly absorbed by the genre make it easy for some to mistakenly overlook his accomplishments.

In 1987 he was named a Nebula Grandmaster. He died of heart and kidney failure in 1992.