Publication date:1939.08
Genre:Science fiction short story
Series:Future History
Preceded by:
Followed by:Misfit
Wikipedia page

“Life‐Line” is a short story by American author Robert A. Heinlein. Published in “Astounding Science‐Fiction” August 1939, it was Heinlein’s first published short story.

Main protagonist—Professor Pinero, is mentioned in passing in the novels “Time Enough for Love” and “Methuselah’s Children.”

Heinlein was motivated to write the story by a contest in “Thrilling Wonder Stories” magazine promising $50 US to the winner, but ended up submitting it to a rival magazine—“Astounding Science‐Fiction,” and was paid $70 (approximately $1085 in 2008 dollars).


Professor Pinero builds a machine that will predict how long a person will live. It does this by sending a signal along the world line of a person and detecting the echo from the far end. Professor Pinero’s invention has a powerful impact on the life insurance industry, as well as on his own life.