269 Years of Time Travel

A brief history of the subject, in both science and fiction, with help from the TV and film experts of Comedy Central's Beat the Geeks, Paul Goebel and Marc Heuck.

by Courtesy of Dreamworks

Dreamworks' remake of The Time Machine is the latest expression of our fascination with time travel.Courtesy of Dreamworks
PHYSICS FICTION
1733 Memoirs of the Twentieth Century-An angel brings back a document from 1998. Samuel Madden's book is part of time-travel fiction trend originating in utopian literature.
1895 _The Time Machine_- H.G. Wells offers the idea that technology can transport a person through the 4th dimension.
1905 Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity. Time is not separate from space, but bound up with it, and flows at different speeds depending on how fast you're moving.
1915 Einstein's General Theory of Relativity brings gravity into the equations. The next year, Karl Schwartzchild predicts the possibility of black holes.
1933 Alley Oop-V.T. Hamlin's caveman hero debuts in the comics; by end of the decade he's touring history courtesy of Doc Wonmug's time machine.
1935 Einstein and Nathan Rosen uncover possibility of portals through space-time, opening a Pandora's box of paradoxes that has yet to be resealed.
1937 The Star Wagon- Maxwell Anderson's time travel play, shot for TV three decades later with Dustin Hoffman and Orson Bean.
1949 Mathematician Kurt Gdel, using Einstein's equations, realizes that a spinning universe allows for time travel.
1952 A Sound of Thunder-Seminal Ray Bradbury story in which time traveler goes dinosaur-hunting courtesy of Time Safari Inc., kills a butterfly, and accidentally triggers history-changing havoc in the present.
1957 John Wheeler coins the term wormhole. Thank you card from sci-fi writers never received.
1959 Twilight Zone-Rod Serling's moody series taps time travel theme for many episodes, including "Execution" and " The Last Flight."
1960 George Pal-directed version of The Time Machine, starring Rod Taylor, who battles thuggish Morlocks in the far future, falls for docile Eloi tribe member Weena, and, at film's end, decides to move permanently to the ignorant Eloi era with a few choice educational texts.
1963 Roy Kerr postulates that spinning black holes can act as time machines. Evidence later found that all black holes spin. First episode of Dr. Who, BBC TV series that ran until 1989, detailing travels of a renegade Time Lord.
1965 Star Trek pilot-King of all TV sci-fi series laid the groundwork for decades of time travel, wormhole negotiation, and the like.
1968 Planet of the Apes-Launch of durable film and TV franchise that monkeys with evolution, shocks with Statue of Liberty ending. Rod Serling wrote part of first script.
1969 Slaughterhouse Five-Kurt Vonnegut's masterly war novel explores Dresden horror and nature of time itself, via hero Billy Pilgrim.
1972 The first discovery of a black hole, Cygnus X-1.
1974 Frank Tipler discovers that an infinitely long spinning cylinder can be used as a time machine. Searches for one have been unsuccessful.
1978 Christopher Reeve as Superman, reversing rotation of the Earth to go back in time and save Lois Lane.
1980 Somewhere in Time-Christopher Reeve again, this time as a playwright who wishes himself back in time to romance a famous stage actress from the early 1900s.
1981 Time Bandits-A suburban boy goes on a time travel adventure with dwarves who have "borrowed" a map of the universe's time holes from God.
1984 The Terminator-Arnold as a killer android, sent back in time (nude, for some reason) to find clothes and then kill the mother of the future savior of mankind. In T2, he came back as the good guy.
1985 Cosmic strings first precisely described by J. Richard Gott III and William Hiscock. Many cosmologists think these superdense threads formed shortly after the Big Bang. _Contact_-Carl Sagan's novelBack to the Future-A classic. Says Marc Edward Heuck of Beat the Geeks: "Effective because it describes both the responsibility and benign wishes of time travel. Going back can create changes, but there is always the possibility of damage control."
1988 Kip Thorne publishes recipe for general- purpose time machine. Ingredient list includes wormholes and negative energy.
1989 Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure-Time travel yields excellent term paper for stoner kids. Time machine looks like a phone booth and it works, George Carlin tells the boys, by "modern technology."
1991 Cosmic string time machine proposed by J. Richard Gott III. While beautiful, it is as practical as all preceding time machines, which is to say, not very.
1995 12 Monkeys-Terry Gilliam film brilliantly explores the paradoxes.
2001 Planet of the Apes-Remake finishes with mighty puzzling Ape Lincoln shot.
2002 The Time Machine-Remake with Guy Pearce slated for March release. Directed by H.G. Wells' great-grandson, Simon.