Shute, Nevil, 1899-1960

Alternative names
Birth 1899-01-17
Death 1960-01-12

Biographical notes:


From the description of Literary manuscripts. [192-?-1960] (Libraries Australia). WorldCat record id: 225790499

Nevil Shute was an English-born author who came to Australia to live in 1950.

From the description of Letter. 1950. (Libraries Australia). WorldCat record id: 225773108

Nevil Shute Norway was born in England and became a successful engineer, eventually moving to Australia in 1950. He began writing novels for relaxation, publishing under the name of Nevil Shute to keep from compromising his reputation as an engineer. His novels are competent and popular, marked by humanity and responsibility, the best-known being the science fiction classic, On the beach.

From the description of Nevil Shute letter to Miss Cond, 1951 Sept. 8. (Pennsylvania State University Libraries). WorldCat record id: 50564375

Nevil Shute (1899-1960) was a British engineer, aviator, sailor, journalist, and novelist. He is perhaps best known for his novels On the Beach and A Town Like Alice.

Born Nevil Shute Norway in Ealing, Middlesex, England, on January 17, 1899,he attended Shrewsbury School as a youth, and in 1912 his father, a career civil servant, was made head of the postal service in Ireland and posted to Dublin. Young Nevil witnessed the 1916 Easter Rising, although his father happened to be away from the GPO that day.

Shute read engineering at Balliol College, Oxford and after graduation worked as an aeronautical designer and engineer with De Havilland Aircraft Co., 1922-24; chief calculator and later deputy chief engineer with Airship Guarantee Co., 1924-30; and founder and managing director of Airspeed Ltd., 1931-38. During World War II (1940-45) he worked on weapons design and held the rank of lieutenant-commander in the Royal Naval Voluntary Reserve. After the war Shute worked briefly for the Ministry of Information, visiting and writing on Burma; in 1950 he and his family relocated to Australia, where he remained until his death in 1960.

Although Shute was a talented engineer whose contributions to aviation include such useful innovations as retractable landing gear, he is more widely known for his literary achievements. Shute's father, mother, and grandmother were all published authors, so it is perhaps not surprising that Shute would try his hand at writing. Although his first novel, Marazan, was published in 1926 he did not turn to writing full-time until the 1940s, and always thought of himself not as an author but as "an engineer who writes books." Many of his novels drew heavily on Shute's own real-life experiences and engineering knowledge: several of his main characters are aviators or engineers, and he predicted the problems of metal fatigue in No Highway (1948), several years before the fledgling commercial airline industry began to encounter it, and the global horrors of nuclear war in On the Beach (1957).

No less than ten movies have been made from eight of Shute's novels ( On the Beach and Pied Piper were each made twice). Undoubtedly the most famous is the 1959 version of On the Beach starring Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astair, and Anthony Perkins, although Shute himself did not care for the film version. The movie is sometimes credited with playing a major part in the international protest against nuclear weapons.

From the guide to the Nevil Shute Papers, ca. 1922-1960, (Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries)


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  • Novelists, Australian--Correspondence
  • Literature--British
  • Authors, Australian
  • Engineers--Australia
  • Novelists, Australian--Archives
  • Authors, English--20th century


  • Authors
  • Novelists


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