JAMES WINDBREAKER KLUNCK, America’s most distinguished futurologist, died yesterday at the age of 113. In a long career of looking forward, Dr. Klunck was perhaps the most widely quoted of all futurological scholars.
He first gained wide notice in 1924, when he wrote in Recording Technology Illustrated that “The process of sound recording has probably reached its apex from a technological point of view, and no serious improvements in the art may henceforth be expected.”
From that point on, Dr. Klunck was much in demand as a speaker and writer, and his pronouncements were widely quoted in the popular press. In a much-cited article from 1926, he wrote, “It is not likely that any truly satisfactory method of synchronizing sound with motion pictures will ever be found; and even if such a technical impossibility were feasible, it would be very difficult to convince the moviegoing public to change its habits to accommodate the new form of presentation.”
He frequently gave opinions on political as well as technological matters. In 1933, he confidently told the New York Herald-Tribune that “The German people’s flirtation with fascism is but the ‘fad’ of a moment, and by this time next year we may certainly expect to see another Social Democratic majority in the Reichstag.”
In 1944, as the Second World War was entering its final stage, he wrote in Popular Science, “Fortunately, the capacity of the human race for destruction is limited, and it is some consolation to be able to say with assurance that no more destructive weapons than those so far employed in the current conflict can ever be discovered.”
Dr. Klunck continued his predictions into the postwar era, telling an audience in 1959 that “The insoluble problem of solar radiation in outer space means that trips to the moon must forever remain in the realm of romance and fantasy.”
In 1974, he wrote in American Scientist, “The computer has proved its worth as a business machine, but it is impossible to imagine its having any use in the home beyond that of a very expensive recipe file.”
In spite of his advancing years, Dr. Klunck continued to speak whenever he was invited, believing it his duty to allow younger generations the benefit of his many years of accumulated experience. Just yesterday, in his final public appearance, a speech on the manufacturing floor of the Superior Anvil Company, Dr. Klunck told his audience, “With medical technology in its current state, and my health gratifyingly robust, there is no reason why I should not continue to live at least another ten years, if not considerably longer.” According to witnesses, it was at about that point in the speech that the tragic malfunction with the anvil hoist occurred.