28 Facts About the Author of Journey to the Center of the Earth and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Writer Jules Verne was one of sci-fi’s earliest practitioners and most prescient pioneers. Here are 28 things you may not know about the influential writer, born Feb. 8, 1828.

 

1. Verne was born in Nantes, France, the eldest of five children. His father was an attorney, his mother from a French noble family of Scottish ancestry.

2. He attended the same boarding school where inventor Brutus de Villeroi taught. De Villeroi would later become famous for creating the U.S. Navy’s first submarine.

3. Fascinated by travel and exploration, Verne is said to have stowed away on a Nantes ship bound for the West Indies, only to have his father haul him off the boat at the next port.

4. In 1848, he moved to Paris and began writing libretti and travel stories while he was supposed to be studying for the bar. When his father found out, he stopped supporting Verne financially.

5. Verne supported himself for a time as a stockbroker.

6. In Paris, he made the acquaintance of authors Victor Hugo (Les Miserables, The Hunchback of Notre Dame) and Alexander Dumas (The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers), who both gave him writing advice.

7. He married Honorine de Viane Morel, a widow with two daughters, in 1857. They would have a son together.

8. Around this time, Verne met influential French publisher Pierre-Jules Hetzel. Hetzel helped Verne edit and polish his writing, and would publish Verne’s stories until his death in 1886. Most of Verne’s works were serialized in a magazine owned by Hetzel.

9. The first book they released together was Verne’s Five Weeks in a Balloon, a novel about exploring Africa from a hot-air balloon.

10. Following its success, Verne would publish an average of two books a year.

11. His second published work turned out to be one of his most lasting successes: Journey to the Center of the Earth.

12. Published in 1864, Journey to the Center of the Earth is about a German professor who descends into a volcanic crater in Iceland. Inside the earth, he discovers a prehistoric would complete with giant mushrooms, huge insects and dinosaurs.

13. Journey to the Center of the Earth has been adapted into feature films and television specials many times over the years. There is also a ride based on the book at the DisneySea theme park in Tokyo.

14. In his next book, From the Earth to the Moon, travelers were shot into space using a giant cannon. Readers through the years have noted several similarities between Verne’s story and the Apollo space program of the 1960s. As in Verne’s story, NASA used three man crews, launched spacecraft from Florida, used ocean landings and built the rockets out of aluminum rather than steel.

15. In 1870 Verne published his most famous book, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the story of Captain Nemo’s undersea voyage aboard the Nautilus submarine.

16. One of the book’s most famous scenes has the crew battling a giant octopus and includes a reference to Victor Hugo’s The Toilers of the Sea, which included a similar adventure.

17. While Verne was prescient in predicting the future military importance of submarines, he was wrong about many of the scientific details of undersea travel.

18. The book was first made into a movie by early silent film pioneer Georges Melies in 1907.

19. Actors who’ve played Captain Nemo through the years include Lionel Barrymore, James Mason, Robert Ryan, José Ferrer, Michael Caine and Patrick Stewart.

20. Despite his books’ success, Verne still suffered financial difficulties a decade into his career as he received a flat fee but no royalties on his early works.

21. Another one of Verne’s most acclaimed books was Around the World in 80 Days, published in 1873. Unlike many of his previous works, this was a realistic adventure story without any fantastical or science fiction elements.

22. Following the novel’s English translation, many people have attempted to emulate protagonist Phileas Fogg’s 80-day adventure, including Nelly Bly and Michael Palin.

23. Contemporary fans of the book included Leo Tolstoy and Jean Cocteau.

24. Verne eventually grew wealthy largely through stage adaptations of 80 Days and Michael Strogoff, the latter considered by critics one of his best books though it is not widely read today.

25. At age 60, Verne was elected governor of Amiens in northern France and served for 15 years.

26. In a strange incident, Verne was shot by his 25-year-old nephew and the resulting wound caused him to walk with a limp for the remainder of his life. The nephew was committed to an insane asylum.

27. In 1863 Verne wrote a novel depicting a futuristic 1960s Paris that featured skyscrapers, high-speed trains, gas-powered automobiles, computers and a worldwide telegraphic communication network. His publisher declined it and Verne put the manuscript in a drawer. It was discovered by his great-grandson in 1989 and finally published in 1994.

28. By the time he died March 24, 1905, Verne had written over 54 novels. He remains the third most-translated writer in history.