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FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions about

Robert A. Heinlein, the person

by D. A. Houdek

©2003 D. A. Houdek Rule - no reproduction or distribution without consent of author. This material may not be copied and put on another website without permission.

What is Heinlein's full name?

Robert Anson Heinlein

How is it pronounced?

Hine-line, with equal emphasis on both syllables.

What is the origin of the name?

"Heinlein" is German, with the first Heinlein ancestor in America being Mathias Heinlein, who arrived in the mid-1700s.

When was Heinlein born, and when did he die?

Robert A. Heinlein was born 7 July 1907 in Butler, Missouri. He died 8 May 1988 in Carmel, California.

How many times was Heinlein married?


The first marriage was a brief one. We do know her name and other information on her life (we helped track down her and her fate) but are withholding it until Bill Patterson presents the material in his upcoming biography on Heinlein (so don't ask, we won't tell).

The second marriage was to Leslyn MacDonald in 1932. Despite her later problems with alcoholism, and the failure of their marriage, Leslyn was clearly an extraordinary woman, intelligent and talented. Her influence on Heinlein's early works cannot be ignored.

Leslyn was born 29 Aug 1904 in Massachusetts and died 13 April 1981 in California. She remarried to a man named Mocabee. She had no children.

Heinlein's third marriage was to Virginia Doris Gerstenfeld, called "Ginny".  They married in 1948 and shared what was considered by those who knew them to be an ideal marriage. Ginny Heinlein was born 22 April 1916 in New York and died 18 January 2003 in Florida. Ginny was, without doubt, the basis of many, if not most, of Heinlein's strong, capable female characters, in particular Hazel Stone.

Did Robert Heinlein have any children?


Those of us who grew up on, and were keenly influenced by, Heinlein's works sometimes refer to ourselves as "Heinlein's Children." It's an informal appellation indicating our respect and regard for the life lessons he passed on to us through his writings.

Where is Robert Heinlein buried?

Both Robert A. Heinlein and Ginny Heinlein were cremated and their ashes were scattered in the Pacific Ocean. There are no cemetery markers or monuments.

See also the account of Ginny Heinlein's ashes joining Robert's.

What were Heinlein's health problems?

They were numerous and affected him throughout his lifetime, influencing both his choice to be a writer and often the things about which he wrote. As a young Navy officer, in 1933, Heinlein contracted tuberculosis and was discharged from the Navy as "totally and permanently disabled," to his dismay. He very much wanted to serve his country and attempted to reenlist at the outbreak of World War II, but was refused. He served as a civilian engineer at the Naval Air Experimental Station by Philadelphia. Fears of possible relapses of tuberculosis happened at other times in his life, once sidetracking college studies in physics and mathematics at UCLA.

His wife, Ginny Heinlein, developed altitude sickness while they lived in Colorado that required them to relocate to Santa Cruz, California.

About the time of the writing/rewriting of "I Will Fear No Evil," Heinlein nearly died of peritonitis. It took him years to recover.

In 1977 he had a blocked carotid artery that led to a near stroke, a transient ischemic attack, and left him incapacitated for months.

Where did Heinlein live? Which homes did he build? Are there pictures of his homes available?

His first home was in Butler, Missouri. When he was about three-years-old his family moved permanently to Kansas City, Missouri though he frequently returned to Butler for visits with family.

After high school, Heinlein went to the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland.

After his naval career ended, due to illness and disability, he spent time in several military hospitals, in Colorado and California, then went to Los Angeles, California about 1934. His parents and most of his siblings also moved there. By the late 1930s he lived in Laurel Canyon, in Hollywood, California.

During World War II, Heinlein lived in Lansdowne, a suburb of Philadelphia.

Following  the war, he again lived in Los Angeles, until the end of his marriage to Leslyn.

After marrying Ginny, they moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado. There they designed and built their own home. This home was featured in a 1952 issue of Popular Mechanics.

Link: This article, with photos of the house, is available at this site

...and it included a bomb shelter.

Link: This is no longer available

In the mid-sixties, Robert and Ginny Heinlein moved to Bonny Doon, in Santa Cruz, California, where they again designed and built their own home. This one came to include a fence to keep out the whackos who took "Stranger in a Strange Land" too seriously and expected Heinlein to be their guru.

The Heinlein Society president David Silver adds: They started building the house by September 4, 1966, according to Grumbles, Ed, renting a house in February 1966 that was fourteen miles by road, and twenty-six minutes by auto, while it was building. The house was "finished" enough sometime around July 1967, enough so that Robert was working in a bleached and varnished study, at a desk. It's unclear from Grumbles when exactly they 'officially' moved in [See, Cp. VII, "Building," sub-part titled "Santa Cruz."] but it clearly was in 1967.

Photos of Bonny Doon are available here for viewing courtesy of The Heinlein Society

Shortly before his death, they left the Bonny Doon house and moved to a house near Carmel, California. It was here Heinlein died.

After his death, Mrs. Heinlein moved to southern Florida where she remained until her death.

Did he have a bomb shelter?

Yes, at his Colorado Springs, Colorado home, a place that was at the time far from any prime nuclear targets. The irony is that the Air Force soon opened the Air Academy nearby, NORAD put in a missile warning headquarters not far away, and in the corker, NORAD started building the Cheyenne Mountain complex practically in the Heinlein's backyard, turning Colorado Springs into the number one nuclear target.

Link: This is no longer available

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The Heinlein Society was founded by Virginia Heinlein on behalf of her husband, science fiction author Robert Anson Heinlein, to "pay forward" the legacy of Robert A. Heinlein to future generations of "Heinlein's Children."