Michael Crichton, the million-selling author who made scientific research terrifying and irresistible in such thrillers as “Jurassic Park,” “Timeline” and “The Andromeda Strain,” has died of cancer, his family said.
Crichton died Tuesday in Los Angeles at age 66 after privately battling cancer.
“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,” his family said in a statement.
“While the world knew him as a great storyteller that challenged our preconceived notions about the world around us — and entertained us all while doing so — his wife, Sherri, daughter Taylor, 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 was an experimenter and popularizer known for his stories of disaster and systematic breakdown, such as the rampant microbe of “The Andromeda Strain” or the dinosaurs running madly in “Jurassic Park.” Many of his books became major Hollywood movies, including “Jurassic Park,” “Rising Sun” and “Disclosure.” Crichton himself directed and wrote “The Great Train Robbery” and he co-wrote the script for the blockbuster “Twister.”
In 1994, he created the award-winning TV hospital series “ER.” He’s even had a dinosaur named for him, Crichton’s ankylosaur.
“Michael’s talent out-scaled even his own dinosaurs of ‘Jurassic Park,’” said “Jurassic Park” director Steven Spielberg, a friend of Crichton’s for 40 years.
John Wells, executive producer of “ER” called the author “an extraordinary man.
In recent years, he was the rare novelist granted a White House meeting with President Bush, perhaps because of his skepticism about global warming, which Crichton addressed in the 2004 novel, “State of Fear.” Crichton’s views were strongly condemned by environmentalists.
If not a literary giant, he was a physical one, standing 6 feet and 9 inches, and ready for battle with the press. In a 2004 interview with The Associated Press, Crichton came with a tape recorder, text books and a pile of graphs and charts as he defended “State of Fear” and his take on global warming.
A new novel by Crichton had been tentatively scheduled to come next month, but publisher HarperCollins said the book was postponed because of his illness.
One of four siblings, Crichton was born in Chicago and grew up in Roslyn, Long Island. Figuring he would not be able to make a living as writer, and not good enough at basketball, he decided to become a doctor. He studied anthropology at Harvard College, and later graduated from Harvard Medical School. During medical school, he turned out books under pseudonyms. He had modest success with his writing and decided to pursue it.
His first hit, “The Andromeda Strain,” was written while he was still in medical school and quickly caught on upon its 1969 release.
Crichton was married five times and had one child. A private funeral is planned.