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Jules Verne: Biography, Books & Inventions

Instructor: Joshua Wimmer

Joshua holds a master's degree in Latin and has taught a variety of Classical literature and language courses.

Plunge '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea' and travel 'Around the World in Eighty Days' in this lesson on the life and work of Jules Verne! Read on to learn more about this 'Father of Science Fiction' and the innovations he helped make science fact.

Man of a Thousand Journeys: A Biography of Jules Verne

The first voyage of Jules Verne begins with his birth on February 8, 1828 in Nantes, France. Growing up in this port town, Verne was fascinated by all the ships and the stories they could tell. They stirred his young imagination so much that he expressed it through poetry and short stories from an early age, when he also immersed himself in geography and tales of adventure and discovery. His father Pierre, however, wished for his son to be a lawyer as he was, so by 1850 Jules had left for law school in Paris.

While in Paris, Verne took a liking to the theater rather than to the law and soon began writing several plays and operettas. His new friend Alexandre Dumas (author of The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo) encouraged the fledgling writer to pursue his talent further. Eventually, Verne quit law altogether and began writing full-time. Unfortunately, his plays were not successful enough to pay the bills, so he took a job as a stockbroker. With a new financial safety net, Verne expanded his family - marrying Honorine de Viane and adopting her two girls, Suzanne and Valentine, in 1857.

The Verne family grew once more in 1861 with the addition of the couple's only child together, Michel. Two years later, in 1863, Verne was finally introduced to Jules Hetzel: the man responsible for truly launching his literary career. Becoming both his publisher and publicist, that year Hetzel serialized Verne's Five Weeks in a Balloon, the first novel of his Extraordinary Voyages.

The Father of Science Fiction, Jules Gabriel Verne (1828-1905) in a photo taken by his friend, renowned photographer Felix Nadar
Photo of Jules Verne

Shortly thereafter, Verne met another huge influence on his career. Felix Nadar would introduce him to a new world of scientific people and ideas that would feed his fascination with transportation. Verne used the knowledge he collected on his voyages through the Mediterranean, the British Isles, and America to ground his fictional inventions and theories in as much scientific fact as was available. Over the next decade, Verne's fame as a novelist skyrocketed, and he would publish many of his most highly acclaimed works between 1864 and 1875.

Though there were early setbacks, the literary career of Jules Verne is a highly distinguished one. With more than 70 publications before his death in Amiens, France, in March 1905, his works revolutionized the novel and scientific thought of the 19th and 20th centuries, and still continue to do so in the 21st. Keep reading to get a look at just a few of Verne's innovative conglomerations of science fact and fiction.

Books by Jules Verne

Verne was quite a prolific writer, with over a hundred individual titles to his name. Just over half of that work is contained in a series known as the Voyages Extraordinaires (Extraordinary Journeys): a collection of 54 novels devoted to exploring the far reaches of scientific and literary imagination. The Voyages Extraordinaires contained each of the four novels below.

After the death of his father in 1905, Michel Verne added eight new titles to the collection (above), some of which were his own creation.
Cover to one of the __Extraordinary Journeys__

1864: Journey to the Center of the Earth

Now considered one of Verne's more fanciful works, Journey to the Center of the Earth introduced audiences to Otto Lidenbrock and the evolving science of geology. The author's estimation of what we might find deep beneath the Earth's surface may have been wildly askew; nevertheless, this tale of perilous adventure has remained a classic with audiences for the past 150 years.

1865: From the Earth to the Moon

Fourth in the series of Extraordinary Journeys, this may be one of Verne's most 'prophetic' novels. It describes a group of weapons aficionados that wants to see if they can build a gun capable of launching a capsule to the moon. Many of the innovations Verne imagined in From the Earth to the Moon were later realized as part of the space program. He almost even pinpointed the location of Kennedy Space Center in Florida over a century before its construction!

1869-1870: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Like Journey to the Center of the Earth, this novel is one of Verne's all-time classics. Following the undersea voyages of the enigmatic Captain Nemo, readers climb aboard his high-tech submarine Nautilus. Here many of the inspirations for advancements in deep-sea exploration can be found.

1873: Around the World in Eighty Days

Despite Verne's fondness for balloons and the images many of us might have of Phileas Fogg's whirlwind trip around the world, nowhere in the novel does he travel by such means! Instead, Fogg and his faithful valet skip across the globe via trains, ships, and various other means of transportation available at the time. One of the author's most widely acclaimed works, Around the World in Eighty Days has been adapted into many other forms, including a stage version by Verne himself.

Inventions Inspired by Verne

Anything one man can imagine, other men can make real. - Jules Verne

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