H.G. Wells Birthday Quiz: The Man Behind the Fiction

Nancy Gupton
for National Geographic News
September 21, 2009

How well do you know H.G. Wells? Test your knowledge of the life and works of one of the fathers of science fiction today, his 143rd birthday.

Answers at bottom.

(Also see "H.G. Wells: Ten Predictions That Have, And Haven't, Come True.")

1. H.G. Wells wrote all but which of the following novels?

a. War of the Worlds
b. From the Earth to the Moon
c. The Island of Doctor Moreau
d. The Time Machine

2. H.G. Wells earned a university degree in which of the following subjects?

a. English literature
b. Zoology
c. Journalism
d. Mathematics

3. Which of the following jobs did H.G. Wells not hold at one time?

a. Draper's apprentice
b. Teacher
c. Actor
d. Chemist's assistant

4. In H.G. Wells's War of the Worlds, aliens attack Woking, England. In Orson Welles's 1938 radio adaptation, where do the aliens attack?

a. New Jersey
b. Paris
c. San Francisco
d. London

5. Which of the following modern technologies did H.G. Wells foresee in some manner?

a. Automated sliding doors
b. Voice mail
c. Wi-Fi
d. All of the above

6. During World War II, H.G. Wells's name appeared on a German SS list of men to be executed upon capture. What was his alleged crime?

a. Being a British spy
b. Plotting to kill Hitler
c. Being a socialist
d. All of the above

7. What charity did H.G. Wells co-found?

a. Home Farm Trust
b. Oxfam
c. Save the Children
d. The Diabetic Association

8. Which of the following is named after H.G. Wells?

a. A dwarf planet
b. A crater on the moon
c. A volcano on Mars
d. All of the above

More on H.G. Wells
H.G. Wells Predictions Ring True, 143 Years Later
H.G. Wells's War of the Worlds: Behind the 1938 Radio Show Panic
Are Neighborhood Aliens Listening to Earth Radio?
Honoring H.G. Wells: Crop Circles Go Worldwide Overnight
ON TV: Time Machine, airing Thursday, September 24


1. b

A prolific writer, Herbert George Wells authored novels and nonfiction works in genres ranging from history to social commentary, but he's best known for his science fiction. He and Jules Verne—the author of From the Earth to the Moon—have each been called the "father of science fiction."

2. b

In 1890 H.G. Wells earned a bachelor of science degree in zoology from the University of London's external program. After graduating, Wells taught briefly at Henley House School, where one of his pupils was Winnie-the-Pooh author A.A. Milne.

3. c

The son of domestic servants turned shopkeepers, H.G. Wells held a number of jobs—including draper's apprentice, teacher, and chemist's assistant—before finding his calling as a writer.

4. a

Welles's War of the Worlds radio broadcast on October 30, 1938, convinced some Americans that Martians were attacking Grover's Mill, New Jersey. Newspapers reported panic and outrage over the stunt.

5. d

In addition to popularizing big ideas that are now science fiction staples, such as time travel and invisibility, Wells also wrote about fictional inventions that today are commonplace tools.

6. c

Condemned for the crime of being a socialist, H.G. Wells's name was on a list of intellectuals and politicians slated to be killed upon Germany's invasion of England during World War II. That invasion never happened.

7. d

H.G. Wells and Dr. R.D. Lawrence founded the Diabetic Association, now called Diabetes UK, in 1934. Wells was diagnosed with the disease in his early 60s, around 1930.

8. d

A crater on the far side of the moon is named after H.G. Wells. His 1901 novel The First Men in the Moon is about two Brits who travel to the moon and encounter insect-like people called Selenites.



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