Google Doodle celebrates science fiction author

23 Nov 2011

Stanislaw Lem in the 1960s

Google has gone all out for its latest Google Doodle to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the first-ever book penned by Stanislaw Lem. The prolific author, whose output covered science fiction, philosophy and satirical themes, was famously ahead of his time for delving into areas such as nanotechnology and virtual reality.

Lem wrote science fiction greats, such as the 1961 novel Solaris, which has been made into a feature film three times.
You can interact with today’s Google Doodle, as a cartoon character, presumably modelled on Lem, comes up against a gigantic robot who has a rather unreliable calculator embellished across his chest.
The Doodle ends by revealing that the artwork was inspired by Daniel Mroz’s illustrations for The Cyberiad, which was a short story series created by Lem.

Google Doodle 23 November 2011
Lem was born in 1921 in Lwow, Poland (presently Lvov, Ukraine) to a family of a wealthy laryngologist. He studied medicine at Lwow University between 1940–1941, and again in 1946 at Jagiellonian University.

His books have sold more than 27m copies and have been translated into 41 languages.
Lem’s works are known for exploring big themes such as philosophy, technology speculation, human intelligence and its origins, as well as looking at humankind and its limitations in the overall universe.
But he started off his writing career as a poet. Between 1947 and 1950, Lem worked as a scientific research assistant, publishing poems, while also penning short stories and scientific essays, simultaneously.
During the Stalin era, however, his books had to be approved by the communist regime.
Following the end of Stalinism in the Soviet Union 1956, Lem came into his own as a writer. The time was known as the ‘Polish October’ when Poland experienced an increase in freedom of speech.
Between 1956 and 1968, Lem penned 17 books.
His work The Summa is renowned for being a unique analysis of social, cybernetic and biological advances. In this work, Lem explores the philosophical implications of technologies, such as virtual reality and nanotechnology, showing how far ahead of his time he really was as a writer and as a scientific thinker.
In subsequent decades, Lem published many science fiction and philosophical books. From the 1980s onwards he concentrated more so on philosophical texts and essays.
Lem died on 27 March 2006 in Krakow, Poland, aged 84.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic