Is Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers, published in 1959 and winner of the Hugo award for Best Novel in 1960, responsible for the modern concept of "powered armor" that is such a standard of recent science fiction movies, literature and games?

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    Not an answer, but at a tangent, Heinlein was thinking such thoughts earlier with his novelette, Waldo envisioning auxiliary empowered manipulators for industry, medicine and research. The nickname stuck and is in use today. I read the story when it was repackaged with Magic, Inc., 1959-60-ish. Commented Oct 30, 2014 at 2:40
  • As a slight aside (not sure I can flesh it out into the answer), on a cultural level, powered armor was mainly popularized in modern culture via the Mecha concept originating in Japanese popculture. Commented Oct 1, 2015 at 3:51

1 Answer 1


Starship Troopers is influential in popularising the idea, but it's nowhere near the origin point for the concept of powered armor.

A quick glance at Wikipedia indicates that the concept of powered exoskeletons well predates Heinlein: the first prototypes were developed in the 1890s and 1910s. The idea of using a powered exoskeleton for armor was already prevalent in science fiction like the Lensman series in the 1930s.

However, one of the scientists working on exosuit technology in the 1980s was partly inspired (though only AFTER having begun his project, so Heinlein still can't take any credit for the idea itself) by Starship Troopers.

  • I had looked at the Wikipedia article and don't think those references qualify as the "modern" version of the concept what we know today. ie: life-support, multi-weapon, strength-enhancing, even orbital drops, etc. The Lensman reference is a good one, though. It's been a long while since I read that series, what characteristics did the powered armor have then? What about in other books of that time?
    – WillC
    Commented Oct 30, 2014 at 4:04
  • The Lensmen used Power Armour or armored spacesuits that were in all aspects but one, identical to the PA of "Starship Troopers"-being that they had Bergenholm Generators that allowed them to use small rockets under inertialessness and therefore to travel rapidly over short distances -interplanetary, rather than between solar systems.Lensmen also used suits so large they were on treads rather than having the human shape, not only forlarge nonhumanoid users but for when huge weapons needed to be carried and/or planetary conditions of say gravity or air pressure made standard suits impractical. Commented May 16, 2015 at 12:06

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