One of the first plaques spotted last week was just outside Baker Street tube - dedeicated to H.G.Wells who I guess is best remembered for The War of the Worlds (most lately desecrated in the Tom Cruise vehicle and Independence Day) I dont think that theres a more influential novel.
Wells along with Jules Verne pretty much came up with Science Fiction maybe as a logical progression from the scientific advances of the nineteenth century and and an extension of Darwins thinking of humanity as a superevolved ape and therefore admitting of the possibility that not only that were not the only inhabited planet but that there may be other worlds out there with more advanced inhabitants than us particularly given mans everpresent propensity for self-destruction.
Science Fiction has of course grown into a huge an ever expanding oeuvre over the last century but Wells stories and the ideas behind them are still up there with the best of them. His protagonists are jaundiced, flawed, human - The Time Machine, The Shape of Things to Come, War in the Air, The First Men in the Moon, The Invisible Man ideas expanded upon, build on but Wells prescient ideas nonetheless.
A lot of his ideas have (sometimes sadly) come true since he wrote of them - he posited the growth of air power, the atomic bomb, the growth of fascism.
He was a committed socialist advocating a single world state and promoted the idea of a world encyclopedia to be updated by the worlds prominent authorities - take that Wikipedia. He did write books of social commentary - Tono Bungay a satire about the advertising industry (1909)stands out.