I Meet Isaac Asimov 1969
Isaac Asimov - Acrylic On Canvas
After a short stint at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem (1965-1967) my family's financial problems forced me to come back to the states to open a costume jewelry store in my hometown of Bayonne, New Jersey. I was 22. Managing that store still gave me time to continue my academic career so I enrolled for the fall 1967 semester at Wagner College in Staten Island; see my article My Educational Background for more details.
Two years later, on 6 Oct 1969, I attended an address given by Isaac Asimov at the school, and since I asked him a few questions during and after the session, I decided to write an article about it and submit it to the student newspaper, The Wagnerian, which published it a few days later:
Vol. 41 - Number 3,
10 Oct 1969,
Dr. Isaac Asimov High Point of Science Institute
Dr. Isaac Asimov, a well-known biochemist, science fiction author, and damn good popularizer of science, gave an address last Monday at Wagner College on the ethical and moral decisions facing the coming generations of biochemists.
Asimoy was one of 17 leading scientists, science educators and businessmen in our nation to lecture on the theme: "Today's Challenges in Exploration and the Field Sciences." The occasion — The Thomas Alva Edison Foundation's 20th Science Institute co-sponsored by The World Center For Exploration; and Grymes Hill College played the host for this two day conference whose objective is to improve the teaching of science and mathematics at the secondary level.
260 junior and senior high school teachers, counselors and school administrators, and 25 Wagner ed majors took part in the program, including, a few students who inadvertently walked in and found it interesting enough to stay and listen.
And this is what some of them heard Dr. Asimov say: "The earth has always been infinite; but now it isn't so." The population explosion, pollution, rapid consumption of the world's resources, and general ecological destruction of our planet lead one to the realization that someday the earth won't support, out of sheer spitefulness for our unconcern, human life completely. It is here that the biochemist comes in. Isaac (as his close friends probably call him) stated that moral decisions would have to be made by geneticists who would have to decide what breed of man is best suited for moon explorations; that Biologists would have to choose whether to make very long life possible or to set a limit to that length when the prospect of trillions of human bodies becomes unbearable. He implied that the future looked grim for earthman twentieth century (World famine, war, suffering and an intolerable weight of human flesh), unless a world-wide effort is made now to control the savagely increasing birth rate. When asked whether he could see in five years the United States prohibiting by law the creation of two or more children per parent, he answered that he saw no alternative. But there may be hope for man.
The Moon! The colonization of the moon might give man the answers he needs to live on the finite world we live on. [the first manned moon landing took place only a few months earlier - Bernie] The lack of many vital elements on the lunar surface and subsurface will force man to live there in a finite, artificial, genetically engineered environment, he said. The picture he presented of this man-made, structured life contrasted greatly with the mess we have here. A life without waste, without pollution, with genetically planned. children, for if man tried to live on the moon in an unscientific manner he would die.
The hour passed too quickly and he had so much to say that one felt hungry to listen for more. One final comment. Dr. Isaac Asimov made you laugh as often as he would zap you with scientific concepts: His jokes, adlibs, witty remarks and sundry ha-ha's proved to the audience that you don't have to be dull to be interesting.
Steve Krauss, the Wagnerian Editor, liked the article (the first I ever submitted for publication anywhere) and asked me to join the staff of the school paper which I did. Less than two months later I became Assistant Editor and two months after that, the Editor.