James A. Conrad

Scientists Who Wrote a Novel But Who Never Had a Literature Degree

If you can be described by one of the following terms:  amateur scientist,  basement scientist,  citizen scientist,  do-it-yourself scientist (DIY scientist),  garage scientist,  hobby scientist,  non-degreed scientist,  self-educated scientist,  self-taught scientist,  or student scientist  and someone with an apparent air of authority tells you that your claim or input should not be taken seriously because you have no "credentials" in science; that is, you do not have an academic degree in a field of science issued by a college or university, here is a page of research to help you provide a defensive response. The scientists named below ventured into the field of fictional novel writing, yet none of them has a university degree in literature. See also the note at bottom.

Poul Anderson . . . (1926 – 2001), American-born; received a Bachelor of Arts degree in physics from the University of Minnesota before becoming an award-winning writer in the sci-fi, fantasty, and historical genres.

Gregory Benford . . . (1941 – ), American-born physicst, astrophysicist; award-winning sci-fi author.

Gary L. Bennett . . . (1940 – ), American-born physicist, former NASA program manager; former U.S. Department of Energy official; former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission official; sci-fi author.

David Brin . . . (1950 – ), American-born astrophysicist; award-winning sci-fi author. Wrote the post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel The Postman, made into a 1997 Hollywood movie starring Kevin Costner.

John Cramer . . . (1934 – ), American-born nuclear physicist, physics professor; sci-fi author.

Robert L. Forward . . . (1932 – 2002), American-born physicist; sci-fi author.

Sir Fred Hoyle . . . (1915 – 2001), British-born astronomer and physicist; coined the term "Big Bang"; sci-fi author. Co-created and co-wrote a 1961 sci-fi TV series in the United Kingdom, A for Andromeda, starring Julie Christie, later made into a 2006 film.

Alexander Ilichevsky . . . (1970 – ), Azerbaijani-born theoretical physicist; novelist and writer in various genres.

E. L. Konigsburg . . . (1930 – 2013), American-born chemist and science teacher; author and illustrator of children's books and young adult novels.

Vladimir Nabokov . . . (1899 – 1977), Russian-born entomologist (insect researcher), lepidopterist (butterfly researcher), butterfly evolutionary theorist, curator of lepidoptera at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University; author in various genres. Wrote the novel Lolita, made into Hollywood movies in 1962 and 1997.

G. David Nordley . . . (1947 – ), American-born physicist; astronautical engineering consultant; sci-fi author.

Carl Sagan . . . (1934 – 1996), American-born astronomer, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, cosmologist; co-founder of The Planetary Society; co-founder of the Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP, now known as the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry); award-winning sci-fi author. Wrote only one novel, Contact, originally written by Sagan as a screenplay, then converted into a novel and subsequently made into a 1997 Hollywood sci-fi movie starring Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey.

Ekaterina Sedia . . . (1970 – ), Russian-born plant ecologist, botany and plant ecology professor; fantasy genre author.

Sir Charles Percy Snow (C.P. Snow) . . . (1905 – 1980), British-born physicist, chemist. His detective-style novel series Strangers and Brothers was made into a 1984 TV series in the United Kingdom.

Henry David Thoreau . . . (1817 – 1862), American-born naturalist; author in various genres, but not science fiction.

Ian Tregillis . . . (1973 – ), American-born physicist; author in the fantasy, sci-fi, and alternative history genres.

Jack Weyland . . . (1940 – ), American-born physicist, professor of physics; author in various genres. Wrote the novel Charly, made into a 2002 Hollywood movie.

Timothy Zahn . . . (1951 – ), American-born; received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Physics from the University of Michigan, Master of Science degree in Physics from the University of Illinois; award-winning sci-fi author, including authorized Star Wars novels.

Janusz Zajdel . . . (1938 – 1985), Polish-born physicist; award-winning sci-fi author.

Note: Of course, you do not need an academic degree in literature as a requirement to write and publish a book-length fictional story and call yourself a novelist. The point is that you also do not need an academic degree in a field of science in order to do scientific research and call yourself a scientist, which is the general term and means you follow an accepted set of practices called the scientific method. You are just not a "degreed scientist."

You may get into trouble, however, if you choose to get more specific and call yourself a physicist, biologist, chemist, astronomer, etc., without also adding "amateur," "self-taught," "non-degreed," or the like because the default assumption is that you have academic credentials to back up your claim.

This list was researched and complied by author James A. Conrad and first published on this web page. If you see it copied elsewhere, this is likely the source from where it originated, if no credit is given. Additions and updates are welcome.

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