One of America’s most successful and prolific authors, Michael Crichton was born in Chicago on October 23, 1942. He showed his writing talents early. When he was fourteen he wrote a travel piece that was published in the New York Times. In 1960, when he enrolled at Harvard University, his ambition was to become a writer, but some negative comments on his writing style by a professor resulted in him switching to anthropology. He graduated in 1964, and then spent a year as a lecturer in anthropology at Cambridge University in England. On his return to the United States he attended Harvard Medical School and graduated with an MD in 1969. To pay his way through medical school, on weekends and vacations he wrote spy thrillers and published them under pseudonyms. He wrote eight of these books over a period of only six years. One of them, A Case of Need (1968), won the Edgar Award for the Best Mystery of the Year. Crichton’s first novel under his own name was The Andromeda Strain (1969), which was published while he was still in medical school. It became a best-seller and was made into a successful Hollywood movie by Universal in 1971.
From 1969 to 1970 Crichton was a postdoctoral fellow at the Salk Institute for Biological Science in La Jolla, California, but he chose not to pursue a career in medicine. Instead, he devoted himself full-time to writing. His novels regularly appeared on the best-seller lists because of his ability to tell an exciting story based on cutting-edge scientific and technological issues. His novels include The Terminal Man (1972), The Great Train Robbery (1975), Eaters of the Dead (1976), Congo (1980), Sphere (1987), Rising Sun (1990), Jurassic Park (1992) and its sequel The Lost World (1995), Disclosure (1994), Airframe (1996), Timeline (1999), Prey: A Novel (2002), State of Fear (2004) and Next (2006). Many of these books were made into movies. Jurassic Park was filmed by Steven Spielberg and released in 1994, and Congo, The Lost World, Rising Sun and Disclosure were also adapted as films.
In addition to his novels, Crichton also wrote screenplays, including Coma (1977), based on the novel by Robin Cook, and The Great Train Robbery (based on his own novel) (1978). He was also the creator and executive producer of the popular NBC television series ER, which ran from 1994 to 2008. The series won the George Foster Peabody Award, in 1995, and an Emmy Award for Best Dramatic Series, 1996. Crichton also wrote several books of nonfiction, including his autobiography, Travels (1988).
Crichton’s books have been translated into over twenty languages; 150 million copies have been sold worldwide.
Crichton was married five times. He had a daughter with Anne-Marie Martin, his fourth wife. That marriage ended in divorce in 2003. At the time of his death, Crichton was married to Sherri Alexander.
Crichton died of throat cancer on November 4, 2008, at the age of sixty-six, in Los Angeles, California.