Michael Crichton 

(1942-2008), American 

Michael Crichton was an American author who is best known for his science fiction thrillers. His novels have been translated into more than 30 languages and adapted into more than ten films.

Life Facts

  • Michael Crichton was born John Michael Crichton on October 23, 1942, in Chicago, Illinois.
  • He initially wanted to become a medical doctor.
  • His first novels were published under a pseudonym.
  • He directed films and television shows.
  • Michael Crichton died in 2008.

Interesting Facts

  • Michael Crichton was 6’9” tall.
  • He held several contrarian views about climate change, secondhand smoke, and more.
  • He hated medical school while he was enrolled at Harvard.
  • He co-wrote a novel with his brother under a pseudonym.
  • He was married five times throughout his life.

Famous Books by Michael Crichton

  • Jurassic World is a 1990 novel based around the concept that dinosaurs can be genetically engineered based on ancient DNA. It inspired a series of multi-million dollar films and is the author’s best-known literary work.
  • The Andromeda Strain is the first novel Crichton published under his own name. Released in 1969, it tells the story of what happens when an Air Force team enters a military satellite. 
  • Prey is one of the last novels Crichton wrote. It tells the story of an experiment gone wrong in the Nevada desert and the results of an escaped cloud of nanoparticles. 
  • Congo tells the story of three people on a journey to discover the lost city of Zinj while investigating mysterious deaths. It includes cannibals, valances, and a variety of nature’s dangers. It also draws on the theme of genetic engineering. 
  • The Lost World is the sequel to Crichton’s Jurassic Park and takes place six years after the events of the first book. A group returns to the island to see what’s been left behind and makes many of the same mistakes from the first novel.

Early Life and Education

Michael Crichton was born John Michael Crichton on October 23, 1942, in Chicago, Illinois. He spent much of his childhood on Long Island and grew up inspired by his journalist father’s wide-ranging interests. His mother, Zula Miller Crichton, was a stay-at-home mother who often took her son to museums and movies.

From a young age, Michael Crichton knew he wanted to become a writer. He began attending Harvard college in 1960, studying literature. An interesting anecdote marks this period in his history. Annoyed that one of his professors seemed unwilling to grade his papers accurately and objectively, Crichton submitted an essay by George Orwell under his own name. After receiving a B-minus for the paper, he felt as though his assumptions about his professor’s bias were well-founded.

His irritation with the English department at Harvard College inspired him to change his concentration. He graduated in 1964 with a bachelor’s degree in biological anthropology. He spent time as a visiting lecturer at the University of Cambridge until he enrolled at Harvard medical school. Two weeks in, he realized it wouldn’t be a process he enjoyed.

Literary Career

To pay for his education, Michael Crichton began writing thrillers and publishing them under pseudonyms. He wrote his first novels in the 1960s. One of his best-known early books was A Case of Need, published in 1968. In 1969, Michael Crichton was sure that a career as an author was something he valued more than the possibilities of a medical career. He began publishing books and essays under his own name. The first of these was The Andromeda Strain in 1969. It was this book that solidified his reputation.

Throughout Michael Crichton’s career, he also spends time in the television industry. In 1978 he wrote and directed the film Coma. His book Congo was adapted into a film that he had pitched to 20th Century Fox before writing it. His novel Sphere, published in 1987, became a film in 1998 starring Dustin Hoffman and Barry Levinson.

In 1990, Michael Crichton published Jurassic Park, his best-known novel. It drew on themes like dangerous scientific advances seen in his previous novels to create an island filled with genetically engineered dinosaurs. The novel began as a screenplay in 1983 and then, later, as a story told from the point of view of a child. Crichton was paid over $1.5 million by Universal for rights to the book, and it was developed into a movie in 1993 by Steven Spielberg.

Other later novels in his career include Prey, State of Fear, and Next. Crichton passed away in 2008, but after his death, novels like Micro, Dragon Teeth, The Andromeda Evolution, and more were released.

Personal Life

Michael Crichton married five times throughout his career. First in 1965 to Joan Radam, and years later in 2005 to Sherri Alexander. Crichton was diagnosed with lymphoma in early 2008 and died that same year while undergoing chemotherapy.

Throughout his career, he earned awards like the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Novel, the George Foster Peabody Award for his work on the television show ER, and a Writers Guild of America Award. More recently, a newly discovered small dinosaur was named after him. 

Influence from other Writers

Michael Crichton was notably influenced by writers such as George Orwell, Mark Twain, Jules Verne, and Arthur Conan Doyle.

Literature by Michael Crichton

Explore literature by Michael Crichton below, created by the team at Book Analysis.