Jerry Pournelle

Jerry Pournelle
Pournelle at NASFiC in 2005
Pournelle at NASFiC in 2005
Born(1933-08-07)August 7, 1933
Shreveport, Louisiana, United States
DiedSeptember 8, 2017(2017-09-08) (aged 84)
Studio City, California, United States
Pen nameWade Curtis (early work)
OccupationNovelist, journalist, essayist

Jerry Eugene Pournelle (l/; August 7, 1933 – September 8, 2017) was an American polymath: scientist in the area of operations research and human factors research, science fiction writer, essayist, journalist, and one of the first bloggers.[1] In the 1960s and early 1970s he worked in the aerospace industry, but eventually focused on his writing career. In an obituary in gizmodo, he is described as "a tireless ambassador for the future."[2]

Pournelle is particularly known for writing hard science fiction, and received multiple awards for his writing. In addition to his solo writing, he wrote several novels with collaborators, most notably Larry Niven. Pournelle served a term as President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.[3]

Pournelle's journalism focused primarily on the computer industry, astronomy, and space exploration. From the 1970s until the early 1990s, he contributed to the computer magazine Byte, writing from the viewpoint of an intelligent user, with the oft-cited credo, “We do this stuff so you won’t have to.”[4] He created one of the first blogs, entitled "Chaos Manor", which included commentary about politics, computer technology, space technology, and science fiction.

Pournelle was also known for his paleoconservative political views,[5] which were sometimes expressed in his fiction. He was one of the founders of the Citizens' Advisory Council on National Space Policy, which developed some of the Reagan Administration's space initiatives, including the earliest versions of what would become the Strategic Defense Initiative.

Early years

Pournelle was born in Shreveport, the seat of Caddo Parish in northwestern Louisiana, and later lived with his family in Capleville, Tennessee, an unincorporated area near Memphis, TN.[6] Percival Pournelle, his father, was a radio advertising executive and general manager of several radio stations. Ruth Pournelle, his mother, was a teacher, although during World War II, she worked in a munitions factory.[7]

He attended first grade at St. Anne’s Elementary School which had two grades to a classroom, and was located in Memphis. Beginning with third grade, he attended Coleville Consolidated Elementary School, which had about 25 pupils per grade and four rooms and four teachers for 8 grades, and was located in Coleville, which was near Memphis, TN.[8][9][10] Pournelle attended high school at Christian Brothers College in Memphis, TN, which despite its name, was a High School at that time.[11]

He served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. In 1953–54, after his military service, Pournelle attended the State University of Iowa in Iowa City.[12] Subsequently, he studied at the University of Washington, where he received a B.S. in psychology on June 11, 1955; an M.S. in psychology (experimental statistics) on March 21, 1958; and a Ph.D. in political science in March 1964.[13]

The thesis for his M.S. is titled "Behavioural observations of the effects of personality needs and leadership in small discussion groups", and is dated 1957.[14] Pournelle's PhD dissertation is titled "The American political continuum; an examination of the validity of the left-right model as an instrument for studying contemporary American political 'isms'".[15][16]

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