Isaac Asimov was one of the three great writers of Golden Age science fiction, the other two being Arthur C. Clarke and Robert A. Heinlein. A Russian-born naturalized U.S. citizen, Asimov was an immensely prolific writer who achieved lasting renown for his influential Foundation space opera.
Asimov was born between October 4, 1919 and January 2, 1920 in Petrovichi, Russia to Anna Rachel (Berman) Asimov and Judah Asimov, a family of Jewish millers. While his exact date of birth is uncertain, Asimov himself celebrated it on January 2. The family name derives from озимые (ozimiye), a Russian word for winter grains in which his great-grandfather dealt, to which a patronymic suffix was added. His name in Russian was originally Isaak Ozimov (Russian: Исаак Озимов); but he was later known in Russia as Ayzek Azimov.
His family emigrated to the United States when he was three years old. Because his parents always spoke Yiddish and English with him, he never learned Russian. Growing up in Brooklyn, Asimov taught himself to read at the age of five and remained fluent in Yiddish as well as English.
Asimov first began reading the science fiction pulps sold in his family's confectionery store in 1929. In the mid-1930s he came into contact with science fiction fandom, particularly the circle that became the Futurians. He began writing his first science fiction story, "Cosmic Corkscrew", in 1937; finished it on June 19, 1938, inspired by a visit to the offices of Astounding Science Fiction; and personally submitted it to Astounding editor John W. Campbell two days later. Campbell rejected "Cosmic Corkscrew" but encouraged Asimov to keep trying, and Asimov did. In October he sold the third story he finished, "Marooned Off Vesta", to Amazing Stories, then a monthly edited by Raymond A. Palmer, and it appeared in the March 1939 issue. Two more of his stories appeared that year: "The Weapon Too Dreadful to Use" in the May Amazing and "Trends" in the July Astounding
In September 1941 Astounding published the pathbreaking short story "Nightfall," the 32nd story Asimov wrote. By 1941 Asimov was regularly selling to Astounding, which was then the genre's leading magazine. All of his published science fiction appeared in Astounding from 1943 to 1949.
In 1942 he published the first of his Foundation stories, which would be later collected in the Foundation Trilogy: Foundation (1951), Foundation and Empire (1952), and Second Foundation (1953). The Trilogy is the story of the collapse and rebirth of a vast Galactic Empire.
Asimov's robot stories, collected in the 1950 I, Robot also won wide attention. An important thread in the stories that became a popular culture reference was the Three Laws of Robotics.