Herbert George Wells, the son of an unsuccessful tradesman, was born in Bromley on 21st September, 1866. After a basic education at a local school, Wells was apprenticed as a draper. Wells disliked the work and in 1883 became a pupil-teacher at Midhurst Grammar School. While at Midhurst Wells won a scholarship to the School of Science where he was taught biology by T. H. Huxley. Wells found Huxley an inspiring teacher and as a result developed a strong interest in evolution. Wells founded and edited the Science Schools Journal while at university. Wells was disappointing with the teaching he received in the second year and so in 1887 he left without obtaining a degree.
Wells spent the next few years teaching and writing and in 1891 his major essay on science, The Rediscovery of the Unique, was published in The Fortnightly Review. In 1895 Wells established himself as a novelist in 1895 with his science fiction story, The Time Machine. This was followed by two more successful novels, The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896) and The War of the Worlds (1898).
Wells also became very popular in the United States. The popular magazine Cosmopolitan serialised two of his books, The War of the Worlds (1897) and First Man in the Moon (1900). His work also appeared in Collier's Magazine, the New Republic and the Saturday Evening Post.
Wells also began writing non-fiction books about politics, technology and the future. This included Anticipations of the Reaction of Mechanical and Scientific Progress Upon Human Life and Thought (1901), The Discovery of the Future (1902) and Mankind in the Making (1903). These books impressed the three leaders of the Fabian Society, George Bernard Shaw, Sidney Webb and Beatrice Webb. Wells accepted their suggestion that he should join the society.
Once a member of the Fabian Society, Wells tried to change it. Rather than a small group of intellectuals discussing socialist reform, Wells thought that it should be a large pressure group agitating for change. When the existing leadership resisted these ideas, Wells attempted to gain control of the organisation. Wells managed to gain election to the Fabian Society's Executive Committee but gained little support for change from the rest of the group.
Wells resigned from the Fabian Society in 1908 but continued to be active in the campaign for socialism. His book A Modern Utopia expressed a desire for a society that was run and organised by humanistic and well-educated people. Wells, who was extremely critical of the role that privilege and hereditary factors in capitalist society and in his utopia, people gain power as a result of their intelligence and training.
In his early scientific writings Wells predicted the invention of modern weapons such as the tank and the atom bomb. He was therefore horrified by the outbreak of the First World War. Unlike many socialists, he supported Britain's involvement in the war, however, he believed politicians should use this opportunity to create a new world order.
Wells was encouraged by the news of the communist revolution in Russia. He visited the country and lectured Lenin and Trotsky on how they should run their country. Wells was disillusioned by what he saw in Russia and in 1920 Wells published The Outline of History. The book described human history since the earliest times and attempted to show how society had evolved to the present state. Wells illustrated the triumphs and failures and pointed out the dangers that faced the human race. The main theme of The Outline of History was that the world would be saved by education and not by revolution.
Wells book was widely discussed and the abridged version, A Short History of the World, published in 1922, sold in large numbers. Wells was now considered to be one of the world's most important political thinkers and during the 1920s and 30s he was in great demand as a contributor to newspapers and journals. In his books and articles H. G. Wells argued that society had reached the stage where it needed world government and strongly supported the League of Nations that was established after the First World War. Wells also stressed that society needed to establish structures that ensured that the most intelligent gained power. Some socialists criticised Wells claiming that he was now preaching a form of elitism.
In his novel The Shape of Things to Come published in 1933, Wells describes a world that had been devastated by decades of war and was now being rebuilt by the use of humanistic technology. In 1936 the book was turned into a very successful film.
In 1934 Wells visited the Soviet Union and the United States. Although Wells clearly preferred what Roosevelt was trying to do, some people believed he was far too sympathetic to Stalin. One of his main critics was his old adversary at the Fabian Society, George Bernard Shaw.
Wells was appalled by the outbreak of the Second World War and wrote extensively about the need to make sure that we used the conflict to establish a new, rational world order. Herbert George Wells died on 13th August, 1946, while working on a project that dealt with the dangers of nuclear war.