Michael Crichton, the author behind the fictional world of Jurassic Park, died yesterday at the age of 66 after a battle with cancer that he hid from the public eye. Crichton, the author of more than a dozen bestselling novels and creator of the medical drama series ER, died unexpectedly in Los Angeles, his family said.
A statement from Mr Crichton’s family posted on the writer’s website described his fight with cancer as “courageous and private” and added: “While the world knew him as a great storyteller that challenged our preconceived notions about the world around us . . . his family and friends knew Michael Crichton as a devoted husband, loving father and generous friend who inspired each of us to strive to see the wonders of our world through new eyes. He graduated summa cum laude from Harvard University before tutoring at Cambridge University in anthropology and later registering at Harvard Medical School.
Crichton, whose books have sold more than 150 million copies worldwide, was heavily influenced by his scientific training, and often conjured up visions of dystopian worlds that bore the brunt of botched attempts at scientific advancement. His first bestseller, The Andromeda Strain, which speculated upon the devastating effects of an extraterrestrial microorganism on the human race, was published while he was still a medical student.
Thirteen of his books were turned into films, including Jurassic Park, which told of recreating dinosaurs via DNA contained in the blood of mosquitoes preserved in amber. The film, released in 1993, took nearly $1 billion (£630 million) worldwide, and in 2002 Mr Crichton had a newly discovered ankylosaur named after him: Crichtonsaurus bohlini.
The family statement added: “Through his books, Michael Crichton served as an inspiration to students of all ages, challenged scientists in many fields and illuminated the mysteries of the world in a way we could all understand.”
—Legend has it that at his peak Michael Crichton could write up to 10,000 words a day. He described the process as excruciating, however, and for an agonising period in the 1980s he was struck by writer’s block. He “cured” himself by consulting all manner of New Age gurus
—Crichton’s writing regime was eccentric. He wrote seven days a week and would hide himself away in a sparsely furnished room to minimise distraction, eating the same thing for lunch every day
—He would break off from his labours only to take exercise or to see his family. As each work progressed, he would wake up earlier and earlier until towards the end of each book he would be at his computer at 2am
—To ensure that his works were as accurate as possible he became an expert in all manner of subjects, from genetic engineering to international economics, taking in Nordic myths, primatology, medieval European history and even airline deregulation
—Crichton used two pen names when he was at medical school – John Lange and Jeffrey Hudson – to knock out pulp fiction. Both included a play on his lankiness, Lange meaning “tall one” in German, Dutch and Danish, while Sir Jeffrey Hudson was a famous dwarf who mixed in 17th-century court circles
Sources: timesonline.co.uk and bbc.co.uk
Michael Crichton, author of Jurassic Park, dies of cancer