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In tonight’s video, neuro-scientist Claudia Aguirre explains “Why is yawning contagious?” for TED-ed.

Painting of Isaac Asimov on throne

Isaac Asimov: I, Communist?

Science fiction author Isaac Asimov was the subject of FBI scrutiny, based on rumors of a communist-leaking professor and an anonymous tip. MuckRock obtained the files through Freedom of Information request.

By September 14, 1960, Isaac Asimov had been a professor of biochemistry Boston University for 11 years, and his acclaimed “I, Robot” collection of short stories was on its seventh reprint. This was also the day someone not-so-subtly accused him of communist sympathies in a letter to J. Edgar Hoover.

The FBI’s file on the author, who died in 1992, indicates that the FBI had its own suspicions about Asimov, based primarily on his extensive science fiction corpus and academic ties.

While history has vindicated Asimov’s contention that Soviet Russia were, in fact, the first to build a nuclear plant, the tipster was concerned. When a trip to the local college library revealed that Asimov had been born in Petrovichi, U.S.S.R. just after the Revolution, he felt compelled to bring these findings to Hoover’s attention.

This was not the Bureau’s last glance into Asimov, though. A 1965 memo notes that Asimov’s name appeared on a list maintained by the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) of individuals either contacted for recruitment or “considered amenable” to the party’s goals. An informant, who is noted as the chairman of the CPUSA, New England district, provided the list to the FBI’s Boston office. The list included an entry for “ISAAC ASIMOV, Boston University Biochemist,” but did not note whether the party had actually established contact.

The same memo notes Asimov’s science fiction publications, connecting the dots by way of another informant’s eleven-year-old observation that science fiction “did a large amount of ‘blind’ publishing for the CP.” The memo’s author also reviews Asimov’s academic history as a biochemist, weighing whether the author might be a potential match to the Soviet informant codenamed ROBPROF, who was also in academia.

You can browse all the files if you’re curious. Thanks to M. Christian for another great link.

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Painting by Rowena Morrill released under the GNU Free Documentation License.

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Kit OConnell

Kit OConnell

Kit O’Connell is a gonzo journalist and radical troublemaker from Austin, Texas. He is the Associate Editor and Community Manager of Shadowproof. Kit's investigative journalism has appeared in Truthout, MintPress News and