Today Would Be Isaac Asimov's 97th Birthday (ish)
January 2, 2017 would be author Isaac Asimov's 97th birthday. Or maybe not. But were he with us, today he would celebrate with us.
The date of Asimov's birth isn't known with precision; he was born at an inflection point in Russian history. He knew he was born in the town of Petrovichi, near the border with Belarus, in what was then called the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic (the U.S.S.R. didn't exist until late 1922). The Asimov family left the Soviet Union in January, 1923 and arrived in New York City the next month. Asimov's mother proceeded to lie about his birthdate—pegging it as September 7, 1919—in order to get him admitted to the New York schools a year early. He later changed his official birthdate, choosing January 2 instead.
Asimov wrote about this uncertainty and his acceptance of it:
"The date of my birth, as I celebrate it, was January 2, 1920. It could not have been later than that. It might, however, have been earlier. Allowing for the uncertainties of the times, of the lack of records, of the Jewish and Julian calendars, it might have been as early as October 4, 1919. There is, however, no way of finding out. My parents were always uncertain and it really doesn't matter. I celebrate January 2, 1920, so let it be."
So let it be, and let us celebrate Mr. Asimov on this 97th anniversary of his birth. Here's a thoughtful 1988 interview with Asimov by Bill Moyers, which remains extremely relevant today:
And here's his pilot for the program Visions of the Future, filmed two years before his death in 1992.