Happy birthday Jerry Pournelle!

Jerry Pournelle in 2005
Jerry Pournelle in 2005

Jerry Eugene Pournelle (photo G. E. Rule) was born on August 7, 1933 in Shreveport, Louisiana, USA.

Jerry Pournelle served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. Subsequently, he studied at the University of Washington where he earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and one in mathematics, a master’s degree in experimental statistics and one in systems engineering and a Ph.D. in political science and one in psychology.

Jerry Pournelle worked in the aerospace industry in the ’50s and in the field of politics in the ’60s. His first works were articles and essays on military strategy, sometimes written in collaboration with other authors. He started his career in the field of fiction in 1965 under a pseudonym and his first science fiction stories were published as Wade Curtis.

In the world of science fiction, Jerry Pournelle is known for the series of the CoDominium, an alliance between the USA and USSR that determines the future history, which started with the novel “A Spaceship for the King” (1971). The stories of Falkenberg’s Legion, centered on the military theme, are part of that series. For their theme, they’ve been compared to the Childe Cycle stories by Gordon R. Dickson even if Pournelle’s vision is closer to that of Robert A. Heinlein.

Another key theme in Jerry Pournelle’s is technology. For him, technological progress is crucial to the survival of humanity or at least to prevent a fall that can also be social.

In 1973, Jerry Pournelle served as the president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

Jerry Pournelle wrote a lot of science fiction in collaboration with other colleagues and had particular success together with Larry Niven. Their most famous novel is probably “The Mote in God’s Eye” (1974), part of the fictional universe of the CoDominium. Niven and Pournelle also published other novels such as: “Hell” (1976), “Lucifer’s Hammer” (1977), “Oath of Fealty” (1981) and “Footfall” (1985). In 1993 they published “The Gripping Hand”, the sequel to “The Mote in God’s Eye”. In 2009 they published “Escape from Hell”, the sequel to “Hell”.

Among the several novels written by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle there are also a couple of fantasy ones: “The Burning City” (2000) and its sequel “Burning Tower” (2005).

Jerry Pournelle kept on writing fiction, either alone or together with other colleagues, but since the ’80s he started devoting himself to journalism, particularly in the field of computer science. For many years he has written articles in the magazine “Byte”, at first in its paper version and then on its on line version. Over the years he has also published several computer science textbooks.

In the course of his life, Jerry Pournelle has demonstrated his eclecticism successfully working in very different fields. As a fiction writer he offered his personal opinions on various topics: he’s often far from “politically correct” and for this reason many people don’t subscribe to his ideas but he always developed them with competence.

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