Heinlein, Robert A. (Robert Anson), 1907-1988

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Robert A. Heinlein, 1907-1988

Robert Anson Heinlein was born July 7, 1907, in Butler, Missouri and died May 8, 1988, in Carmel, California. Son of Rex Ivar, an accountant and Bam Lyle Heinlein, he was the third of seven children. He married Elinor Curry in 1929 but they divorced in 1931. His second marriage to Leslyn McDonald lasted from 1932 until their divorce in 1947. He married his third wife, Virginia Doris Gerstenfeld, on October 21, 1948 and stayed with her until his death in 1988. None of the marriages produced any children.

Robert attended University of Missouri in 1925 and the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, graduating in 1929. He completed his graduate studies in physics and mathematics at the University of California, Los Angeles in 1934.

In 1929, Heinlein was commissioned as an ensign by the U. S. Navy, became lieutenant, junior grade serving aboard the aircraft carrier Lexington before becoming gunnery officer on the destroyer Roper. He suffered from seasickness and eventually contracted tuberculosis, which caused him to be retired from active duty in 1934 on a small pension. After the Navy, Heinlein worked at a variety of jobs besides writing. He was owner of Shively & Sophie Lodes silver mine, Silver Plume, Colorado from 1934-35, ran as a candidate for California State Assembly in 1938, and worked as a real estate agent during the 1930s. He also worked as an aviation engineer at Naval Air Experimental Station, Philadelphia, 1942-45, was a guest commentator during Apollo 11 lunar landing for Columbia Broadcasting System in 1969, and delivered the James V. Forrestal Lecture at the U.S. Naval Academy, in 1973.

His writing career spanned almost five decades, from 1939-1988. After working as an engineer during World War II, Heinlein returned to writing short stories and juvenile fiction in the late 1940s. It was during this time that he moved from the genre magazines in which he had made his reputation to more mainstream periodicals, particularly the Saturday Evening Post . About his career with the pulp magazines, Heinlein noted, "They didn't want it good. They wanted it Wednesday." (Pace, 1980).

As Joseph Patrouch wrote, "Heinlein was the first major science-fiction writer to break out of category and reach the larger general-fiction market, and therefore he was the first to start breaking down the walls that had isolated science fiction for so long." In a poll taken by Astounding Science Fiction magazine in 1953, eighteen top science fiction writers of the time cited Heinlein as the major influence on their work. His fictional writings repeatedly anticipated scientific and technological advances (Pace, 1988), from atomic power plants to water-beds.

In 1959 Heinlein published the first of what became a string of controversial novels. Starship Troopers, 1959, speculated on future societal changes, postulating a world run by military veterans. It spawned a deluge of controversy among his fans, and yet Starship Troopers is still one of Heinlein's most popular novels. It won a Hugo Award and has remained in print for more than three decades.

Heinlein followed Starship Troopers with Stranger in a Strange Land, which tells the story of Valentine Michael Smith, a Martian with paranormal cognition, who establishes a religious movement on Earth. Members of his 'Church of All Worlds' practice group sex and live in small communes. Stranger in a Strange Land is perhaps Heinlein's best-known work. It has sold over three million copies, won a Hugo Award, created an intense cult following, and even inspired a real-life Church of All Worlds, founded by some devoted readers of the book.

In subsequent novels Heinlein continued to speculate on social changes of the future, dealing with such controversial subjects as group marriage and incest. In The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, lunar colonists practice a variety of marriage forms because of the shortage of women on the moon. In, I Will Fear No Evil, an elderly, dying businessman has his brain transplanted into the body of a young woman. He then impregnates himself with his own sperm, previously stored in a sperm bank. Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long explores varieties of future incest through the immortal character Lazarus Long.

In the novel Friday, published in 1982, and later in Job: A Comedy of Justice and The Cat Who Walks through Walls: A Comedy of Manners, Heinlein tempered his social speculations by combining serious subject matter with rollicking interplanetary adventure.

In the 1950s, Heinlein entered the field of television and motion pictures. His novel Space Cadet was adapted as the television program, Tom Corbett: Space Cadet . He wrote the screenplay and served as technical advisor for the film Destination Moon, described by Peter R. Weston of Speculation magazine as "the first serious and commercially successful space flight film" which "helped to pave the way" for the Apollo space program of the 1960s. Heinlein also wrote an original television pilot, "Ring around the Moon," which was expanded without his approval by Jack Seaman into the screenplay for the film Project Moonbase . The 1956 movie The Brain Eaters, was based on Heinlein's The Puppet Masters, also without his knowledge or approval, and in an out-of-court settlement, Heinlein received compensation and the right to demand that certain material be removed from the film.

In 1994, Red Planet was made into a mini TV series, and The Puppet Masters was released starring Donald Sutherland. Starship Troopers, released in 1997, became his most notable film adaptation.

American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Authors Guild of America U.S. Naval Academy Alumni Association Retired Officers Association Navy League Association of the U.S. Army Air Force Association World Future Society U.S. Naval Institute Minutemen of U.S.S. Lexington California Arts Society National Rare Blood (donors) Club American Association of Blood Banks Guest of Honor, World Science Fiction Convention, 1941, 1961, and 1976 Hugo Award, World Science Fiction Convention, 1956, for Double Star Hugo Award, World Science Fiction Convention, 1960, for Starship Troopers Hugo Award, World Science Fiction Convention, 1962, for Stranger in a Strange Land Hugo Award, World Science Fiction Convention, 1967, for The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress Boys' Clubs of America Book Award, 1959 Sequoyah Children's Book Award of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Library Association, 1961, for Have Space Suit--Will Travel Locus, magazine readers' poll, Best All-time Author, 1973 and 1975 National Rare Blood Club Humanitarian Award, 1974 Nebula Award, Grand Master, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, 1975 Council of Community Blood Centers Award, 1977 American Association of Blood Banks Award, 1977 Inkpot Award, 1977 Doctor of Human Letters (L.H.D.), Eastern Michigan University, 1977 Distinguished Public Service Medal, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), 1988 (posthumously awarded), "in recognition of his meritorious service to the nation and mankind in advocating and promoting the exploration of space" The Rhysling Award of the Science Fiction Poetry Association is named after the character in Heinlein's story, The Green Hills of Earth Tomorrow Starts Here Award, Delta Vee Society


Olander, Joseph D., and Martin Harry Greenberg, eds. "Robert A. Heinlein." New York: Taplinger, 1978. Pace, Eric. "Robert A. Heinlein is Dead at 80; Renowned Science Fiction Writer." New York Times. May 10, 1988 p.D26. "Robert A. Heinlein." Contemporary Authors Online. Literature Resource Center. Gale, 2004. Robert A. Heinlein. Internet Movie Database. 2007. Samuelson, David N. "Stranger in the Sixties: Model or Mirror?" Critical Encounters: Writers and Themes in Science Fiction, edited by Dick Riley. New York: Ungar, 1978. Slusser, George Edgar. "The Classic Years of Robert A. Heinlein." San Bernadino, CA.: Borgo Press, 1977.

Virginia G. Heinlein, 1916-2003

Virginia G. Heinlein was born on April 22, 1916 in Brooklyn, New York, to George (a dentist) and Jeanne Gerstenfeld and had one younger brother, Leon. She died in Florida on January 18, 2003. Virginia attended New York University, majoring in chemistry where she lettered in swimming, diving, basketball, and field hockey. She also reached national competitive levels in figure skating, the sport that became her lifelong passion. In time, she came to speak over seven languages, including French, Latin, Italian, and Russian.

After graduating in 1937, Ginny worked for Quality Bakers as a chemist until 1943 when she enlisted in the Navy during World War II. She advanced to lieutenant in the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Services (WAVES). She served first at the Bureau of Aeronautics, where she met Robert Heinlein in 1944 while both were working at the Naval Air Experimental Station in Philadelphia. She then served as his assistant on several classified development projects as chemist and aviation test engineer. After World War II, she came to Los Angeles to study for an unfinished doctorate in biochemistry at UCLA.

Virginia married Robert Heinlein in Raton, New Mexico in October 1948. Ginny, as she preferred to be called, became his closest companion, critic, editor, and staunch supporter. She was also his muse and model for many of the savvy, brainy, redheaded female protagonists in Heinlein's oeuvre.

Robert and Ginny were a formidable team. She fielded and co-coordinated much of his correspondence, and graciously received guests and fans in public appearances and in their home. She worked tirelessly with him on blood drives held at science fiction conventions around the country. Ginny was strong-willed and generous, and totally devoted to Robert. She nursed Robert through two life-threatening illnesses, spending years involved in every facet of his business and social life. Robert credited Ginny for the conception of Stranger in a Strange Land . When their health was robust, the Heinleins traveled extensively; their adventures around the world resulted in the travel memoir, Tramp Royale which Ginny published after his death. There is also evidence to suggest that Ginny also functioned as a political catalyst for the socially liberal Heinlein. Very shortly after their marriage, Robert's change in ideology from liberal to libertarian becomes apparent in his correspondence and his stories.

After Robert Heinlein's death in 1988 Ginny moved to Florida where she continued her interests in gardening, cooking, reading, and politics. She gathered a selection of her husband's letters in Grumbles from the Grave, printed for the first time his travel memoir Tramp Royale and political handbook Take Back Your Government (originally titled How to Be a Politician ), and oversaw the restoration of several texts she felt had been badly edited, including Red Planet, Puppet Masters, and Stranger in a Strange Land . In her later years she was active in an online listserv where she communicated with fans about her husband's work.

To futher her husband's legacy, she endowed the Robert Anson Heinlein Chair in Aerospace Engineering, at Annapolis, with a gift of over $2.6 million and helped found 'The Heinlein Society', an educational charity dedicated to the Heinlein legacy. She also endowed the public library in Robert Heinlein's birthplace of Butler, Missouri.

Elaine Woo wrote in her 2003 Los Angeles Times obituary that Greg Bear, a science fiction writer who knew the Heinleins, said he had met women who were inspired to become scientists by Robert's stories. "And Robert," Bear said, "was inspired by Ginny. Ginny was their original."


Drum, Kevin. "Virginia Heinlein." Washington Monthly v.35:1 Jan/Feb 2003 James, Robert. "Virginia Heinlein, a Biography." The Heinlein Society (1999) Woo, Elaine. "Virginia Heinlein, 86; Wife, Muse and Literary Guardian of Celebrated Science Fiction Writer" Los Angeles Times Jan. 26, 2003. p. B14

From the guide to the Robert A. and Virginia G. Heinlein papers, 1907-2004, (University of California, Santa Cruz. University Library. Special Collections and Archives)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Monterey Public Library. California History Room. Authors clippings : "H" [surname] folder 1943-2006. Monterey Public Library
creatorOf Boucher, Anthony, 1911-1968. Papers, 1932-1969 Indiana University
referencedIn Pulp Science Fiction and Detective Fiction Periodical Collection, 1940-1983 Fales Library & Special Collections
referencedIn Purdom, Thomas, 1936-. Science Fiction and Fantasy Collection, Papers, 1965-1973. Temple University Libraries, Paley Library
creatorOf Verhoeven, Paul, 1938-.... Starship troopers [Multimédia multisupport] : un seul but: survivre / Paul Verhoeven, réal. ; Robert A. Heinlein, aut. adapté ; Ed Neumieier, scénario ; Basil Poledouris, comp. ; Casper van Diem, Dina Meyer, Denise Richards... [et al.], act. Bibliothèque nationale de France, BnF
referencedIn Heinlein, Robert A. (Robert Anson), 1907-1988. Robert A. Heinlein : file of clippings and miscellanea. Michigan State University Libraries, Main Library
creatorOf Online Archive of California. Robert A. and Virginia G. Heinlein papers, 1917-2004. University of California, Santa Cruz, UCSC
referencedIn Theodore R. Cogswell Papers, 1955-1986 Syracuse University. Library. Special Collections Research Center
creatorOf NDWT Archives (University of Guelph). Starman Jones / by Douglas L. Lieberman from the novel by Robert A. Heinlein, 1972 - unproduced reading script. University of Guelph. McLaughlin Library
creatorOf Verhoeven, Paul, 1938-.... Starship troopers [Multimédia multisupport] : un seul but: survivre / Paul Verhoeven, réal. ; Robert A. Heinlein, aut. adapté ; Ed Neumieier, scénario ; Basil Poledouris, comp. ; Casper van Diem, Dina Meyer, Denise Richards... [et al.], act. Bibliothèque nationale de France, BnF
creatorOf Smith, E. E. (Edward Elmer), 1890-1965. Papers, 1914-1994. University of Idaho Library
creatorOf Heinlein, Robert A. (Robert Anson), 1907-1988. Robert A. Heinlein : file of clippings and miscellanea. Michigan State University Libraries, Main Library
referencedIn Sphere Magazine Collection, 1956-1966 University of West Florida Libraries
referencedIn LeFevre, Robert, 1911-. Robert LeFevre papers, 1946-1981. University of Oregon Libraries
creatorOf Heinlein, Robert A. (Robert Anson), 1907-1988. Destination moon, 1950 May 25. Ohio State University Libraries
creatorOf Robert A. and Virginia G. Heinlein papers, 1907-2004 University of California, Santa Cruz. . University Library Special Collections and Archives
referencedIn Robert LeFevre papers, 1946-1981 University of Oregon Libraries. Special Collections and University Archives
referencedIn Holly, Joan Carol Hunter, 1932-. [Papers of Joan Hunter Holly] University of Kansas Archives / MSS / Rare Books, Kenneth Spencer Research Library
referencedIn Papers of Joan Hunter Holly, 1949-1982, 1949-1982 University of Kansas Kenneth Spencer Research Library Department of Special Collections
referencedIn Frederik Pohl Papers, 1917-1968 Syracuse University. Library. Special Collections Research Center
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Boucher, Anthony, 1911-1968. person
associatedWith Cogswell, Theodore R. person
associatedWith Heinlein, Robert A. (Robert Anson), 1907-1988. person
associatedWith Heinlein, Virgina G. person
associatedWith Heinlein, Virginia G. person
associatedWith Holly, Joan Carol Hunter, 1932- person
correspondedWith LeFevre, Robert, 1911- person
associatedWith Monterey Public Library. California History Room. corporateBody
associatedWith NDWT Archives (University of Guelph) corporateBody
associatedWith Pohl, Frederik. person
associatedWith Purdom, Thomas, 1936- person
associatedWith Russel B. Nye Popular Culture Collection. corporateBody
associatedWith Smith, E. E. (Edward Elmer), 1890-1965. person
associatedWith Sphere Magazine corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Science fiction, American
Science fiction, American
Time travel
Imaginary wars and battles


Birth 1907-07-07

Death 1988-05-08




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