Seeing the 20th Century from the 19th

Jules Verne imagined with stunning accuracy many of the “features and bugs” of life in the 20th Century.  He foresaw not just a great deal of technological innovation, but the social benefits and some of the problems that would arise with the concentration of economic/industrial power.

Many such predictions have jumped out at readers from the pages of Jules Verne’s lost second novel, Paris in the Twentieth Century. Originally written in 1863 but not published until found at the bottom of a vault in 1994, the book’s scorecard of seemingly bang-on elements of the then-future include the explosion of suburban living and shopping and large-scale higher education; career women; synthesizer-driven electronic music and a recording industry to sell it; ever more advanced forms of ever cruder entertainment; cities of elevator-equipped, automatically surveilled skyscrapers electrically illuminated all night long; gas-powered cars, the roads they drive on, and the stations where they fill up; subways, magnetically-propelled trains, and other forms of rapid transit; fax machines as well as a very basic internet-like communication system; the electric chair; and weapons of war too dangerous to use.

— Colin Marshall, writing for

The book centers around a world where large numbers of people go to college, but they all major in business and engineering because there is no market for literature, which has languished…

Verne’s publisher refused this work, writing “My dear Verne, even if you were a prophet, no one today would believe this prophesy.”

Today is the 190th birthday of Jules Cassandra Verne.



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