Asimov was born sometime between October 4, 1919 and January 2, 1920 in Petrovichi shtetl of Smolensk Oblast, RSFSR (now Russia) to Anna Rachel Berman Asimov and Judah Asimov, a Jewish family of millers. His date of birth is uncertain because of differences in the Gregorian and Hebrew calendars and a lack of records. Asimov himself always celebrated it on 2 January. The family name derives from ?????? (ozimiye), a Russian word for a winter grain in which his great-grandfather dealt, to which a patronymic suffix was added. His family immigrated to the United States when he was three years old. Since his parents always spoke Yiddish and English with him, he never learned Russian. Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, Asimov taught himself to read at the age of five, and remained fluent in Yiddish as well as English. His parents owned a succession of candy stores, and everyone in the family was expected to work in them. Science fiction pulp magazines were sold in the stores, and he began reading them. Around the age of eleven he began to write his own stories, and by age nineteen, having discovered science fiction fandom, he was selling them to the science fiction magazines. John W. Campbell, then editor of Astounding Science Fiction, was a strong formative influence and eventually became a personal friend. Asimov attended New York City Public Schools, including Boys' High School, in Brooklyn, New York. From there he went on to Columbia University, from which he graduated in 1939, later returning to earn a Ph.D. in biochemistry in 1948. In between, he spent three years during World War II working as a civilian at the Philadelphia Navy Yard's Naval Air Experimental Station. After the war ended, he was drafted into the U.S. Army, serving for just under nine months before receiving an honorable discharge. In the course of
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