Time travel is an extraordinarily popular pastime. Or at least it would be if it were possible. Evidently it isn’t, though; as Stephen Hawking once observed, we never encounter any tourists from the future.

To make his point, Hawking once held a party for time travelers from the future, but nobody came. Of course, he didn’t post the invitation  until after the date of the event, in order that only people from the future would know about it.

So for the time being, time travel remains fictional. But it has been fictional for a long time. Decades before Doctor Who, H.G. Wells wrote his famous book The Time Machine (1895). More than a century and a half before that, an Irish writer named Samuel Madden published (anonymously) Memoirs of the Twentieth Century (1733). Madden declared that he had the “honor and misfortune” to be the first historian to depart from writing “the accounts of past Ac­tions and Times” and “dar’d to enter by the help of an infallible Guide, into the dark Caverns of Futurity, and discover the Secrets of Ages yet to come.” Those secrets had been revealed to Madden by a time traveler who had appeared one night like an angel, leaving him a series of volumes containing state papers from the reign of George VI.

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