COLOMBO (AFP) — Visionary science fiction guru Arthur C. Clarke, best known for the classic film "2001: A Space Odyssey," died in a Sri Lankan hospital on Wednesday at the age of 90.
The British writer, who had post-polio syndrome for decades and used a wheelchair, died after suffering breathing problems, his office said. He had reviewed the final manuscript of his newest work, The Last Theorem, just days previously.
Sri Lanka's most celebrated guest resident since 1956, Clarke believed mankind's future lay in space. He achieved iconic status with the film "2001: A Space Odyssey, the 1968 movie he created with acclaimed director Stanley Kubrick, and the novel he wrote by the same name.
Clarke, who was awarded a knighthood in 1998, wanted a private funeral with no religious services and to be buried in the family plot of his Sri Lankan business partner, Hector Ekanayake, with whose family he lived.
"We are awaiting the arrival of family members from Britain and Australia. They are already on the way," his secretary Nalaka Gunawardene said.
"Sir Arthur has also left written instructions that his funeral be strictly secular," he said.
"Absolutely no religious rites of any kind, relating to any religious faith, should be associated with my funeral," the statement quoted the author as saying.
Clarke, born in Minehead, Somerset, in 1917 and author of more than 100 books and over 1,000 shorter works, was prophetic in many ways.
After working during the Second World War on the pioneering development of radar, he predicted in 1945 telecommunications satellites that would broadcast television images around the world -- decades before they became a reality.
The farmer's son, who had a diverse career as an author, underwater explorer, space promoter and science populariser, also predicted space shuttles, super-fast computers, lightning quick communications and that man would reach the moon.
"I want to be remembered most as a writer -- one who entertained readers, and, hopefully, stretched their imagination as well," he told the BBC late last year on the occasion of his 90th birthday.
Clarke also said in a statement marking his birthday he had sadly watched a bitter ethnic conflict dividing his adopted tropical homeland for nearly half his lifetime and called for "lasting peace."
British astronomer Patrick Moore, who had worked with Clarke on several writing projects, paid tribute to his "dear friend" and said his death was a "great loss."
"He was ahead of his time in so many ways," Moore told the BBC.
"Quite apart from artificial satellites there were other things too. A great science fiction writer, a very good scientist, a great prophet and a very dear friend -- I'm very, very sad that he's gone."
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse paid tribute to him as a "great visionary."
Clarke, who moved to Sri Lanka drawn by marine diving which he said was as near as he could come to the weightlessness in space, is survived by siblings Fred and Mary, both of whom still live in his home town of Minehead.
Their youngest brother, Michael, died earlier.
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