Michael Crichton Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

John Michael Crichton (KRI-tuhn), son of Zula (Miller) Crichton and John Henderson, onetime president of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, grew up in Roslyn, Long Island. He was the oldest of four children, including two sisters and a brother, Douglas, with whom he collaborated under the joint pseudonym Michael Douglas. Frequently described as an overachiever, Crichton sold his first writing at age fourteen. He intended to major in writing in college, but instead he studied anthropology at Harvard University, from which he graduated summa cum laude with an A.B. in 1964, adding the M.D. degree in 1969. By the time that he had completed medical school at age twenty-six, Crichton had written six mystery novels, five potboilers, and a more promising work entitled A Case of Need, which earned for him the Edgar Allan Poe Award of the Mystery Writers of America. The novel features a doctor who performs abortions; he is arrested for the murder of a teenager who dies as the result of an operation that he did not perform.

Because Crichton no longer intended to practice medicine after graduation and because his dean was aware of his growing fame as a writer (The Andromeda Strain had been accepted for publication), he was allowed to alter his last year of studies at Massachusetts General Hospital and research the book Five Patients: The Hospital Explained. In Five Patients, Crichton not only documents cases but also offers a convincing analysis of both the training of physicians and the quality of health care available in the United States.

Meanwhile, The Andromeda Strain launched his career as a best-selling novelist. Capitalizing on peak interest in high technology and the space race, the plot tells of four scientists in a Nevada desert laboratory located underground; they have five days to save the world from an alien bacterial strain brought to Earth when an unmanned U.S. research satellite unexpectedly returns. A formula effort written in the style of Crichton’s hero, Alfred Hitchcock, The Andromeda Strain was condemned by critics because of its forgettable characters and lack of passion but was well received by the general public because of its swift plot and facile writing.

The Terminal Man utilized up-to-date medical knowledge about stereotaxic procedures and brought Crichton further popular attention. Thirty-four-year-old Harold Benson suffers from psychomotor epilepsy and consequently becomes the first human being to have a computer implanted in his brain. Again, Crichton uses a time-lapse crisis to build the climax. Like The Andromeda Strain, this book quickly received a film offer, inevitably inviting comparison to the James Bond novels. Crichton received both praise for its verisimilitude and scorn for what some...

(The entire section is 1160 words.)


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

John Michael Crichton was born in Chicago, Illinois, but grew up in Long Island, New York. He had three siblings, one a younger brother named Douglas, with whom he once collaborated on a comic novel in 1971, Dealing. Written under the pen name Michael Douglas, the book was an account of upper-middle-class college students who become marijuana dealers. Crichton received his undergraduate degree from Harvard University in 1964 and his M.D. from the same school in 1969. His other early academic activities included lecturing at Cambridge in England in 1965 and studying at the Salk Institute in California in the late 1960’s.

To eke out a living as a student, Crichton began to write mystery novels under the pseudonyms Jeffrey Hudson and John Lange, a practice that he maintained through the early 1970’s, even after he had published his first two best sellers under his own name. The fourth of these mysteries, A Case of Need, was one of the first pieces of American popular fiction to deal forthrightly with the issue of abortion, then illegal throughout the United States. The publication of The Andromeda Strain in 1969 began Crichton’s long stream of best-selling popular novels, most of which drew on the genres of science fiction and the espionage thriller.

Crichton was always vocal about his political views pertaining to topics in the fields of medicine and science. In the early twenty-first century, he attracted much...

(The entire section is 422 words.)