St John's College, St John's Street, Cambridge CB2 1TP, United Kingdom
Sheffield received his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees from St. John’s College, in 1957 and 1961 respectively.
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Sheffield received his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees from St. John’s College in Cambridge, in 1957 and 1961 respectively. He earned his doctorate in physics from that college in 1965.
Sheffield came to the United States in 1971 to work in the space industry. He worked on projects connected with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and was the chief scientist and board member of the Earth Satellite Corporation. Sheffield also served as a president of the American Astronautical Society.
He took up writing science fiction somewhat late in his career, with his first novel in the genre, Sight of Proteus, seeing print in 1978. He became prolific in the field, and produced stories and novels as well as nonfiction books and articles about space. Many critics agreed that the scientific ideas explored in Sheffield’s fiction were often spectacular. His novels often revolved around interplanetary or interspecies conflict. Sheffield had often been compared to fellow science fiction great Arthur C. Clarke.
Examining the morality of science, Sheffield's novel Sight of Proteus introduced a future earth where mankind has perfected the ability to change their shape through the trials of genetic research and plastic surgery. A Publishers Weekly contributor discussing Sheffield’s debut asserted that it proved him one of the most imaginative, exciting talents to break into science fiction during the 1970s.
In 1979’s The Web Between the Worlds Sheffield explored an idea frequently associated with him in his non-literary life—that of building a huge, strong cable at the earth’s equator which would easily and cheaply launch spacecraft into orbit—a creation that Sheffield labels a “beanstalk.” Sheffield worked in the genre of historical fantasy for 1982’s Erasmus Magister. With David Bischoff, Sheffield collaborated on the 1982 horror novel The Selkie.
Between the Strokes of Night, which became available to readers in 1985, portrayed a future in which the only humans to survive a worldwide nuclear holocaust were those traveling in space when it occurred. Gene Deweese in the Science Fiction Review declared that Between the Strokes of Night was one of the best of its kind for 1985.
In 1986 Sheffield published a novel titled The Nimrod Hunt, which he later revised as The Mind Pool. Sheffield used a post-nuclear setting for Trader’s World.
Sheffield returned to the world of Behrooz Wolf with 1989’s Proteus Unbound. Sheffield penned another book about Wolf, 1995’s Proteus in the Underworld. A year later Sheffield began another fiction trilogy, set in the Heritage Universe, which included books Summertide, Divergence and Transcendence.
In 1992, the same year that saw the publication of Transcendence, fans of Sheffield’s work were also treated to Cold as Ice. This novel was set after what Green in Booklist describes as a bloody interplanetary war. Brother to Dragons, which also saw print in 1992, drew comparisons of Sheffield with famed nineteenth-century British novelist Charles Dickens.
Sheffield, in collaboration with fellow famed science fiction author Jerry Pourneile, began his “Jupiter” series—books aimed at more adolescent fans of science fiction—with 1996’s Higher Education.
Throughout the years he was penning novels, Sheffield was also crafting short stories, and he put out several collections of shorter fiction. The first of these was 1979’s Vectors, which Spider Robinson, another well-known science fiction author, reviewed in Analog. He remarked that Sheffield’s scientific speculations were fascinating indeed, informed and plausible and imaginative. Hidden Variables, another Sheffield collection, was printed in 1981. Dancing with Myself, which also included scientific articles along with the stories, became available in 1993.
Georgia on My Mind followed in 1995, and a Publishers Weekly contributor reported that the collection offered valuable ideas from a master craftsman. In the same year, Sheffield edited a collection of short fiction by other authors entitled How to Save the World.
Sheffield also made his mark with his nonfiction books about space - Earthwatch: A Survey of the World from Space and Man on Earth: How Civilization and Technology Changed the Face of the World both feature photographs taken from space and computer processed by Sheffield’s Earth Satellite Corporation. Earthwatch first saw print in 1981.
Sheffield teamed with Carol Rosin to create 1984’s Space Careers, a volume aimed at helping adolescents find the proper educational facilities and opportunities to prepare them for careers related to all aspects of the space program. Ten years later, he helped to edit The World of 2044: Technological Development and the Future of Society, which includes speculative ideas such as nasal spray birth control and underwater amusement parks.
In addition, Sheffield published over a hundred technical papers and monographs on such subjects as nuclear physics, gravitational field analysis, and general relativity, and an equally large body of popular science articles for the layman. He was a contributor of stories and articles to periodicals, including Analog.
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Sheffield was a former president of the American Astronomical Society and the Science Fiction Writers of America.
Sheffield's first wife was Sarah Sanderson. Unfortunately, she died in 1977. That marriage produced a son, Charles Christopher ("Kit"), and a daughter, Ann Elizabeth. Sheffield later married Linda Zall, with whom he had two daughters, Elizabeth Rose and Victoria Jane. His second marriage ended in divorce. Sheffield married Nancy Kress in 1997.