How to pronounce Michael Crichton: Michael CRY-ton
Writer and filmmaker, Michael Crichton (Oct 23, 1942 - Nov 4, 2008), best
known as the author of Jurassic Park and the creator of ER,
was born in Chicago and grew up on Long Island, New York.
Apparently, his writing career began with turning out school assignments for classmates. At Harvard he switched his major from English to anthropology, having fooled a professor he believed was grading him unfairly by submitting an essay by George Orwell under his own name, which the professor awarded a low B.
He graduated summa cum laude from Harvard College, received his MD from Harvard Medical School, and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. He taught courses in anthropology at Cambridge University and writing at MIT.
His interest in computer modeling goes back forty years to his multiple-discriminant analysis of Egyptian crania, carried out on an IBM 7090 computer at Harvard, published in the Papers of the Peabody Museum in 1966.
He supported himself through his studies by writing novels - publishing seven thrillers under the pen name John Lange between 1966 and 1970 - a name that he chose because Lange means 'long' in German and Crichton stood 6ft, 9in in his socks. Able to write 10,000 words a day while maintaining his studies, he also wrote at least one novel, A Case of Need, under the name Jeffrey Hudson (a famous English dwarf in the 17th century) which won the Edgar award for best novel from the Mystery Writers of America.
His first book written under his own name, The Andromeda Strain, was published while he was still a medical student, it became a bestseller. He later worked full time on writing books and films. One of the most popular writers in the world, his books have been translated into at least thirty-six languages, selling more than 150 million copies world wide, and at least thirteen have been made into movies. "He was the greatest at blending science with big technical concepts," said the Jurassic Park director, Steven Spielberg, a long-time friend.
Crichton won an Emmy, a Peabody, and a Writer's Guild of America Award for ER. In 2002, a newly discovered ankylosaur was named for him: Crichtonsaurus bohlini.
He achieved significant notoriety in 2004 with the publication of State Of Fear, which argued that attribution of global warming to human activity was speculation, not fact. Crichton's book was hailed by President George Bush, and he came under fire for accepting the American Petroleum Geologists journalism award.
He died at the age of 66 in Los Angeles on November 4, 2008 after a long and private battle with cancer. The final book he published before his death was Next. His final novel, due to be published in late 2008 has been postponed. He is survived by his fifth wife, the actor Sherri Alexander, and his daughter by his fourth marriage.
This biography was last updated on 11/10/2008.
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Michael Crichton discusses his book Prey
What is it exactly that drives you into writing this or that particular story?
Are the themes about personal anxieties and nightmares of your own or is it
rather the investigation into contemporary events and preoccupations that
I don't know why I do what I do. And I try not to analyze it too much. Generally I am aware of trying to do one of two things. Either I am trying to solve a problem of narrative (for example, how could you make people believe in dinosaurs, at least for a few hours?) Or I am trying to understand a problem in the real world (what's the relationship between aggressor and victim in sexual harassment?) And out of that effort may come a book, or a screenplay.
Do you engage your research with a set of assumptions that you hope will drive a certain plot and then find that the plot won't work because of the science? Or to what extent do you find the need to challenge in the plot the scientific assumptions you encounter in your research (e.g., "mixing all this volatile stuff together won't cause an explosion")?
I usually do research to answer a question of my own ...
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