Starmaker: The Philosophy of Olaf Stapledon


Olaf Stapledon lecture

Olaf Stapledon lecturing to the BIS on “Interplanetary Man” on 9th October 1948.


Date: 23 November 2011

Start Time: 9:30 am
End Time: 4:30 pm

Venue: BIS, 27/29 South Lambeth Road, London, SW8 1SZ

Williams Olaf Stapledon was born in May 1886. A philosopher by Doctoral training, his PhD thesis was the basis of one of his first books on A Modern Theory of Ethics. Arguably his two crowning achievements in his literature career were Last & First Men and Starmaker. The concepts explored in these books were decades if not centuries ahead of their time. The British-born physicist Freeman Dyson attributes the concept of the ‘Dyson Sphere’ to originating in the writings of Stapledon. In 1948 Stapledon came to London at the request of Arthur C Clarke to deliver a lecture on ‘Interplanetary Man’.

Clarke, who was also influenced by Stapledon, said that “he was the most civilized human being I had ever met”. Were the writings of Stapledon complete works of fiction? Are there some elements of a possible future for our species lurking between the pages of his philosophy? This symposium is dedicated to the writings and philosophy of Stapledon and is part of the ‘BIS Inspiration series’ of symposia.

All presentations are to be written up for submission to a special issue of JBIS.

Provisional Programme

09:00  Registration

09:30  Welcome by Kelvin F. Long

Session 1: Stapledonian Vision – Chair: Kelvin F. Long

09:40  Thought’s on the Concept of Universal Mentality – Kelvin F. Long

10:10  The Future & Stapledon’s Visions – Andy Sawyer

10:50  Coffee

11:05  The Earth is My Footstool: Wells, Stapledon, and the Idea of the Post-Human – Patrick Parrinder

11:45 Star Consciousness: An Alternative to Dark Matter – Greg Matloff

12:25  Lunch & Additional Activities

Session 2: Stapledonian Technology & Extraterrestrial Life – Chair Richard Osborne

14:00  Dyson Spheres – Richard Osborne

14:40  Where Was Everybody? Olaf Stapledon & The Fermi Paradox – Stephen Baxter

15:20  Coffee

15:30  Stapledon’s Interplanetary Man: A ‘Commonwealth of Worlds’ & The Ultimate Purpose of Space Colonisation – Ian Crawford

16:10  Discussion Session Led by Richard Osborne

16:30  End of Symposium

This symposium has been arranged by the BIS Technical Committee.


First Named Author £20.00
Society Members £30.00
Delegates £35.00
Students* £20.00

*Please provide a copy of your student card.

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