His interest in diving and underwater exploration led him to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), where he first arrived in 1954. After exploring the island for several months during 1956, he decided to settle down there. He later adopted a Sri Lankan family headed by Hector and Valerie Ekanayake, whose Colombo house he shared, and with whom he pioneered diving and underwater tourism in Sri Lanka through their company, Underwater Safaris.
He also played an active role as a public intellectual and as a patron of art, science and higher education. He founded the Ceylon Astronomical Association in 1959.
In 1979, the government appointed him as Chancellor of the University of Moratuwa, the country's leading technological university. He held this position for 23 years until 2002 when he resigned due to health reasons. In 1984, the government named a newly established Institute for Modern Technologies in his honour, but Clarke was never associated with its research, administration or management.
For over half a century, Clarke wrote and broadcast extensively promoting Sri Lanka as a tourist destination. The late Lakshman Kadirgamar, foreign minister of Sri Lanka, once called him a 'one man cheering squad for Sri Lanka'. From 1980 to 1994, Clarke hosted three international television series: Arthur C Clarke's Mysterious World, Arthur C Clarke's World of Strange Powers and Arthur C Clarke's Mysterious Universe. His segments to camera were all filmed in Sri Lanka, generating invaluable promotion for Sri Lanka on television screens around the world.
Although he lived in Sri Lanka for 52 years, he always remained a British citizen. In 1975, he was granted the country's first 'Resident Guest' status, an immigration category that allowed accomplished foreigners to live in the country. Clarke never sought nor received Sri Lankan citizenship.
Sri Lanka bestowed on him three high level national honours, viz:
n Vidya Jyothi ('Luminary of Science) award from the President of Sri Lanka, 1986
nSahithyaratna ('Gem of Literature') lifetime achievement award from National Arts Council, Sri Lanka, 2005.
n Lankabhimanya ('Pride of Lanka'), highest civilian honour from the President of Sri Lanka, 2005. Clarke also received many more awards and honours from around the world, including several honorary doctorates. He shared with Stanley Kubrick an Oscar nomination in 1969 for his screenplay of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 for his role in globalising communications by inventing the communications satellite (1945). He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1998 for 'services to literature'. In 1996, the International Astronomical Union named asteroid No 4923 in his honour, while scientists at the University of Monash, Australia, named a newly discovered dinosaur species as Serendipaceratops arthurcclarkei in 2003.
In later years, Clarke was wheel-chaired owing to Post Polio Syndrome, but remained active as a writer to the very end. He died on 19 March 2008 aged 90, and was buried at the General Cemetery Colombo in a secular funeral. His last novel, titled The Last Theorem, was published posthumously in August 2008.
The Three Laws
Writer and critic George Zebrowski, a good friend of Clarke and a recognized expert on his work, once stated that Clarke's Three Laws are central to appreciating the man's work.
Not only are these aphorisms fundamental elements of Clarke's literary legacy, but some would argue that they comprise a valuable contribution to 20th-Century popular thought. They are:
1) When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. Corollary: When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
2) The only way to discover the limits of the possible is to venture beyond them into the impossible.
3) Any significantly advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
The Third Law is widely quoted and appears in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations.
The global village
Clarke so relentlessly promoted the exploration of space, while celebrating cultural and geographic differences here on Earth, that he was called "our solar system's first regionalist."
Thanks to his deep love for his adopted Sri Lanka and its people, Clarke became a true citizen of the global village he helped to create. The international popularity of his work transcended political boundaries, allowing him to bridge the chasm between the U.S. space program, the Russians and his native United Kingdom throughout the Cold War era. How many men of the 20th century could count both Alexei Leonov and Walter Cronkite as friends?
Clarke's outspoken criticism of individual countries' tendency to nationalize the exploration of space showed that he still felt that the leap to other worlds was far too important -- if not too vast -- an undertaking to be constrained by concepts so transient as "nation-states."
He often seemed disappointed with us, but his fiction showed that he never wavered in his belief that the future would be a time of wonders, and that humanity, given time and common sense, would inevitably transcend the limits of gravity.
In 2007, Clarke celebrated his 90th birthday.
"Sometimes I am asked how I would like to be remembered," Clarke said at the celebration. "I have had a diverse career as a writer, underwater explorer and space promoter. Of all these I would like to be remembered as a writer."
He listed three wishes on his birthday: for the world to embrace cleaner energy resources, for a lasting peace in his adopted home, Sri Lanka, and for evidence of extraterrestrial beings.
"I have always believed that we are not alone in this universe," Clarke said.
Humans are waiting until extraterrestrial beings "call us or give us a sign," he said. "We have no way of guessing when this might happen. I hope sooner rather than later."
For further biographical and bibliographical information, please visit the following web pages and websites:
Arthur C Clarke Foundation in the US: http://www.clarkefoundation.org
Detailed biography: http://www.clarkefoundation.org/acc/biography.php
List of books: http://www.clarkefoundation.org/acc/bibliography.php