8. Robert Heinlein
Predicted: The Cold War. Also, waterbeds.
Heinlein will not be the only science fiction author on this list; authors in that genre are of course known for looking into the future and extrapolating what it might hold. Heinlein certainly had his share of speculations about the future which turned out to be pretty accurate—but a couple of them were mind-bogglingly specific.
In his short story “Solution Unsatisfactory”, Heinlein depicted a United States that develops a nuclear weapon before the rest of the world, becoming the only superpower and spurring a race among the other nations of the world to develop the bomb. This is, of course, a perfect description of the nuclear arms race and the Cold War, which kicked off after the US deployed nuclear weapons against Japan in 1945. “Solution”, however, was written in 1940—before the United States had even joined World War II, and when the feasibility of nuclear weapons was still largely speculation.
Almost stranger than this is Heinlein’s near-invention of the waterbed. His 1961 novel Stranger In a Strange Land contained a detailed description of such a bed—so detailed that the eventual inventor of the waterbed had trouble getting it patented. The patent wasn’t issued until 1971, and Heinlein claimed to have had the idea as far back as the 1930s.