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French author Jules Verne was born on this day in 1828. His father wanted him to be a lawyer and circumstances forced him to work as a stock broker, but eventually he shook off these humdrum vocations and became the world’s first professional science fiction author.

Verne quickly gained a reputation for combining ultramodern technology (of the time) with clever guesswork and an affinity for adventure writing. His most celebrated works are found in a 54-piece canon of science fiction and adventure novels called Les Voyages Extraordinaires.

While most of these stories were rousing adventure yarns, what is most remarkable about them was Verne’s ability visualize futuristic devices. He wrote about submarines when the technology was merely a curiosity. In his lost work Paris in the 20th Century he predicted that air conditioning, the Internet, television and electricity would become everyday conveniences. In From the Earth to the Moon he imagined a space program that would launch three astronauts from Florida, who were recovered after an ocean splash-down. In The Steam House he created one of the first visions of mecha,

He did it by imagining the possible, and defining it in terms his contemporaries could understand, a mission many of us undertake when we visualize a new project. And so, Jules Verne, happy birthday!