Olaf Stapledon (1886-1950), one of the least well-known early authors of science fiction, was a British philosopher and occasional science-fiction author. His greatest works are considered to be his novels Last and First Men and Star Maker, two classics of the genre.
Stapledon earned a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Liverpool in 1925, but lectured there and abroad on a variety of subjects such as psychology, English literature, and industrial history, and was very influential in British politics.
His novel Last and First Men and it’s sequel Star Maker have been extremely influential in the genre of hard science fiction since their publication in 1930 and 1937 respectively. Most notable about the two novels are their scale: Last and First Men outlines 18 successive future evolutionary species of humanity, obviously spanning millenia into the distant future, and Star Maker outlines a history of the life of the universe, making the scale of it’s prequel seem minuscule.
Like all great hard science fiction authors, Stapledon has been credited with first describing various scientific ideas, including the Dyson Spheres (which Dyson himself said should be called Stapledon Spheres), genetic engineering, terraforming, and the “supermind.”