Time travel is the concept of moving between different points in time in a manner analogous to moving between different points in space. Time travel could hypothetically involve moving backward in time to a moment earlier than the starting point, or forward to the future of that point without the need for the traveler to experience the intervening period (at least not at the normal rate). Any technological device – whether fictional or hypothetical – that would be used to achieve time travel is commonly known as a time machine.
Although time travel has been a common plot device in science fiction since the late 19th century and the theories of special and general relativity allow methods for forms of one-way travel into the future via time dilation, it is currently unknown whether the laws of physics would allow time travel into the past. Such backward time travel would have the potential to introduce paradoxes related to causality, and a variety of hypotheses have been proposed to resolve them, as discussed in the sections Paradoxes and Rules of time travel below.
Origins of the concept
200s to 400s CE – Story of Honi HaM’agel in the Talmud
720 CE – “Urashima Taro” in the Nihon Shoki
1733 – Samuel Madden’s Memoirs of the Twentieth Century
1771 – Louis-Sébastien Mercier’s L’An 2440, rêve s’il en fût jamais
1781 – Johan Herman Wessel’s Anno 7603
1819 – Washington Irving’s “Rip Van Winkle”
1824 – Faddey Bulgarin’s “Pravdopodobnie Nebylitsi”
1827 – Goethe Faust fragment
1828 – Hans Christian Andersen’s Journey on Foot from Holmen’s Canal to the East Point of Amager
1832 – Goethe’s Faust: The Second Part of the Tragedy
1836 – Alexander Veltman’s Predki Kalimerosa
1838 – Hans Christian Andersen’s The Goloshes of Fortune
1838 – Missing One’s Coach: An Anachronism
1843 – Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol
1861 – Pierre Boitard’s Paris avant les hommes
1881 – Edward Page Mitchell’s The Clock That Went Backward
1887 – Enrique Gaspar y Rimbau’s El anacronópete
1888 – H. G. Wells’ The Chronic Argonauts
1889 – Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
1895 – H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine
Forward time travel
There is no widespread agreement as to which written work should be recognized as the earliest example of a time travel story, since a number of early works feature elements ambiguously suggestive of time travel. Ancient folk tales and myths sometimes involved something akin to travelling forward in time; for example, in Hindu mythology, the Mahabharata mentions the story of the King Revaita, who travels to heaven to meet the creator Brahma and is shocked to learn that many ages have passed when he returns to Earth. Another one of the earliest known stories to involve traveling forward in time to a distant future was the Japanese tale of “UrashimaTaro”, first described in the Nihongi (720). It was about a young fisherman named Urashima Taro who visits an undersea palace and stays there for three days. After returning home to his village, he finds himself 300 years in the future, when he is long forgotten, his house in ruins, and his family long dead. Another very old example of this type of story can be found in the Talmud with the story of Honi HaM’agel who went to sleep for 70 years and woke up to a world where his grandchildren were grandparents and where all his friends and family were dead.
More recently, Washington Irving’s famous 1819 story “Rip Van Winkle” tells of a man named Rip Van Winkle who takes a nap on a mountain and wakes up 20 years in the future, when he has been forgotten, his wife dead, and his daughter grown up. Sleep was also used for time travel in Faddey Bulgarin‘s story “Pravdopodobnie Nebylitsi” in which the protagonist wakes up in the 29th century.
Another more recent story involving travel to the future is Louis-Sébastien Mercier’s L’An 2440, rêve s’il en fût jamais (“The Year 2440: A Dream If Ever There Were One”), a utopian novel in which the main character is transported to the year 2440. An extremely popular work (it went through 25 editions after its first appearance in 1771), it describes the adventures of an unnamed man who, after engaging in a heated discussion with a philosopher friend about the injustices of Paris, falls asleep and finds himself in a Paris of the future. Robert Darnton writes that “despite its self-proclaimed character of fantasy…L’An 2440 demanded to be read as a serious guidebook to the future.”
Backward time travel
Backwards time travel seems to be a more modern idea, but its origin is also somewhat ambiguous. One early story with hints of backwards time travel is Memoirs of the Twentieth Century (1733) by Samuel Madden, which is mainly a series of letters from British ambassadors in various countries to the British Lord High Treasurer, along with a few replies from the British Foreign Office, all purportedly written in 1997 and 1998 and describing the conditions of that era. However, the framing story is that these letters were actual documents given to the narrator by his guardian angel one night in 1728; for this reason, Paul Alkon suggests in his book Origins of Futuristic Fiction that “the first time-traveler in English literature is a guardian angel who returns with state documents from 1998 to the year 1728″, although the book does not explicitly show how the angel obtained these documents. Alkon later qualifies this by writing, “It would be stretching our generosity to praise Madden for being the first to show a traveler arriving from the future”, but also says that Madden “deserves recognition as the first to toy with the rich idea of time-travel in the form of an artifact sent backwards from the future to be discovered in the present.”
In 1836 Alexander Veltman published Predki Kalimerosa: Aleksandr Filippovich Makedonskii (The forebears of Kalimeros: Alexander, son of Philip of Macedon), which has been called the first original Russian science fiction novel and the first novel to use time travel. In it the narrator rides to ancient Greece on a hippogriff, meets Aristotle, and goes on a voyage with Alexander the Great before returning to the 19th century.
In the science fiction anthology Far Boundaries (1951), the editor August Derleth identifies the short story “Missing One’s Coach: An Anachronism”, written for the Dublin Literary Magazine by an anonymous author in 1838, as a very early time travel story. In this story, the narrator is waiting under a tree to be picked up by a coach which will take him out of Newcastle, when he suddenly finds himself transported back over a thousand years. He encounters the Venerable Bede in a monastery, and gives him somewhat ironic explanations of the developments of the coming centuries. However, the story never makes it clear whether these events actually occurred or were merely a dream—the narrator says that when he initially found a comfortable-looking spot in the roots of the tree, he sat down, “and as my sceptical reader will tell me, nodded and slept”, but then says that he is “resolved not to admit” this explanation. A number of dreamlike elements of the story may suggest otherwise to the reader, such as the fact that none of the members of the monastery seem to be able to see him at first, and the abrupt ending in which Bede has been delayed talking to the narrator and so the other monks burst in thinking that some harm has come to him, and suddenly the narrator finds himself back under the tree in the present (August 1837), with his coach having just passed his spot on the road, leaving him stranded in Newcastle for another night.
Charles Dickens’ 1843 book A Christmas Carol is considered by some to be one of the first depictions of time travel in both directions, as the main character, Ebenezer Scrooge, is transported to Christmases past, present and yet to come. These might be considered mere visions rather than actual time travel, though, since Scrooge only viewed each time period passively, unable to interact with them.
A more clear example of backwards time travel is found in the popular 1861 book Paris avant les hommes (Paris before Men) by the French botanist and geologist Pierre Boitard, published posthumously. In this story the main character is transported into the prehistoric past by the magic of a “lame demon” (a French pun on Boitard’s name), where he encounters such extinct animals as a Plesiosaur, as well as Boitard’s imagined version of an apelike human ancestor, and is able to actively interact with some of them.
Another early example of backwards time travel in fiction is the short story The Clock That Went Backward by Edward Page Mitchell, which appeared in the New York Sun in 1881.
Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889), in which the protagonist finds himself in the time of King Arthur after a fight in which he is hit with a sledge hammer, was another early time travel story which helped bring the concept to a wide audience, and was also one of the first stories to show history being changed by the time traveler’s actions.
The first time travel story to feature time travel by means of a time machine was Enrique Gaspar y Rimbau’s 1887 book El Anacronópete. This idea gained popularity with the H. G. Wells story The Time Machine, published in 1895 (preceded by a less influential story of time travel Wells wrote in 1888, titled The Chronic Argonauts), which also featured a time machine and which is often seen as an inspiration for all later science fiction stories featuring time travel using a vehicle that allows an operator to travel purposefully and selectively. The term “time machine“, coined by Wells, is now universally used to refer to such a vehicle.
Since that time, both science and fiction (see Time travel in fiction) have expanded on the concept of time travel. (Read more)
Source : Wikipedia