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Ray Bradbury (22 August 1920 - 5 June 2012)

Published 12 June 2012

Detail from the cover of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, published by the Science Fiction Book Club, London, 1955

We pay homage with a look at our Science fiction collection.

Author of hundreds of short stories, books, poems, essays, operas, plays, teleplays, and screenplays, Bradbury's career spanned more than 70 years. He received numerous awards including the 2000 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, the 2004 National Medal of Arts, and the 2007 Pulitzer Prize Special Citation, as well as an Academy Award nomination for his screenplay for John Huston's classic film adaptation of Moby Dick.

Bradbury's most famous book is Fahrenheit 451. Originally a short story entitled "The Fireman", it is set in a world where books are outlawed by the state and disposed of by burning; the title refers to the temperature at which paper burns. In Fahrenheit 451, a group of rebels memorize entire works of literature and philosophy, in effect becoming living books. Bradbury himself was a strong supporter of public libraries and passionately fought to prevent their closure.

The Science fiction collection contains over 1,000 works published from the 19th century onwards, illustrating the history and development of the genre. It is particularly notable for its American and British magazines and periodicals.

The collection originated in the gift of Professor Cyril Leslie Oakley, who was appointed Brotherton Professor of Bacteriology at the University of Leeds in 1953. He gave a lecture on "bug-eyed monsters" to members of the Medical and other student societies, illustrated with images from the publications that later formed part of his gift.

Professor Oakley was a founding fellow of the College of Pathologists and at various times edited the Journal of Pathology and the Journal of Medical Microbiology. He was awarded a DSc by the University of London in 1953, elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1957 and made a CBE in 1970. He died in 1975.

The second major source of printed books in the collection is the gift of David I Masson, a published science-fiction author as well as long-serving curator of the Brotherton Collection. Masson wrote his best-known short stories during his 23 years at Leeds, including "A Two-Timer", the tale of a 17th-century man's revulsion at the 20th-century world he finds himself in. This and six other stories were collected in The Caltraps of Time, published in 1968. Masson died in Leeds in 2007.