He attended Harvard College in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as an undergraduate, graduating summa cum laude in 1964. Crichton was also initiated into the Phi Beta Kappa Society. He went on to become the Henry Russell Shaw Traveling Fellow from 1964 to 1965 and Visiting Lecturer in Anthropology at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom in 1965. He graduated from Harvard Medical School, obtaining an M.D. in 1969, and did post-doctoral fellowship study at the Jonas Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, from 1969 to 1970. In 1988, he was Visiting Writer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. While in medical school, he wrote novels under the pen names John Lange and Jeffery Hudson. A Case of Need, written under the latter pseudonym, won the 1969 Edgar Award for Best Novel. He also co-authored Dealing with his younger brother Douglas under the shared pen name Michael Douglas. The back cover of that book contains a picture of Michael and Douglas at a very young age taken by their mother.
His two pen names were both created to reflect his above-average height. According to his own words, he was about 2.06 meters (6 feet 9 inches) tall in 1997. Lange is a familyname in Germany, meaning "tall one" and Sir Jeffrey Hudson was a famous 17th century dwarf in the court of Queen Consort Henrietta Maria of England.
Crichton has admitted to having once, during his undergraduate study, plagiarized a work by George Orwell and submitted it as his own. According to Crichton the paper was received by his professor with a mark of "B−". Crichton has claimed that the plagiarism was not intended to defraud the school, but rather as an experiment. Crichton believed that the professor in question had been intentionally giving him abnormally low marks, and so as an experiment Crichton informed another professor of his idea and submitted Orwell's paper as his own work.
Crichton has been married five times and divorced four times. He has been married to Suzanna Childs, Joan Radam (1965-1970), Kathy St. Johns (1978-1980) and Anne-Marie Martin, the mother of his only child, daughter Taylor Anne. Crichton is currently married to Sherri Alexander.
Contrary to certain perceptions, Crichton is not anti-technology. Although his works often portray scientists and engineers as arrogant and closed-minded to the potential threat a technology represents, there is always a well-educated author surrogate who states that failures are simply part of the scientific process and one should simply maintain a state of awareness and preparation for their inevitable occurrence.
The use of author surrogate has been a feature of Crichton's writings since the beginning of his career. In A Case of Need, one of his pseudonymous whodunit stories, Crichton used first-person narrative to portray the hero, a Bostonian pathologist, who is running against the clock to clear a friend's name from medical malpractice in a girl's death from a hack-job abortion.
Some of Crichton's fiction uses a literary technique called false document. For example, Eaters of the Dead is a fabricated recreation of the Old English epic Beowulf in the form of a scholarly translation of Ahmad ibn Fadlan's 10th century manuscript. Other novels, such as The Andromeda Strain and Jurassic Park, incorporate fictionalized scientific documents in the form of diagrams, computer output, DNA sequences, footnotes and bibliography. However, some of his novels actually include authentic published scientific works to illustrate his point, as can be seen in The Terminal Man and the more recent State of Fear.
|1966||Odds On||as John Lange|
|1967||Scratch One||as John Lange|
|1968||Easy Go||as John Lange|
|A Case of Need|| as Jeffery Hudson|
(later rereleased as Crichton)
|1969||The Andromeda Strain|
|The Venom Business||as John Lange|
|Zero Cool||as John Lange|
|1970||Grave Descend||as John Lange|
|Drug of Choice||as John Lange|
| Dealing: Or the|
Forty-Brick Lost-Bag Blues
| written with brother,|
published as Michael Douglas
|1972||The Terminal Man|
|Binary||as John Lange|
|1975||The Great Train Robbery|
|1976||Eaters of the Dead|
|1995||The Lost World|
|2004||State of Fear|
|2008||BookSources/9780060873028||to be released on December 2|
To prove his point, Crichton included many self-written demonstrative Applesoft (for Apple II) and BASICA (for IBM PC compatibles) programs in that book. Crichton once considered updating it, but the project seems to be canceled.
His non-fiction works are:
|1972||Pursuit||A TV movie|
|1979||The Great Train Robbery||Directed/ wrote screenplay|
|1993||Jurassic Park||co-wrote screenplay|
Pursuit is a TV movie written and directed by Crichton that is based on his novel Binary.
Westworld was the first feature film that used 2D computer-generated imagery (CGI) and the first use of 3D CGI was in its sequel, Futureworld (1976), which featured a computer-generated hand and face created by then University of Utah graduate students Edwin Catmull and Fred Parke.
Crichton directed the film Coma, adapted from a Robin Cook novel. There are other similarities in terms of genre and the fact that both Cook and Crichton are physicians, are of similar age, and write about similar subjects.
Many of his novels have been filmed by others:
|1971||The Andromeda Strain||Robert Wise|
|1972||Dealing: Or the Berkeley-to-Boston Forty-Brick Lost-Bag Blues||Paul Williams|
|1972||The Carey Treatment (A Case of Need)||Blake Edwards|
|1974||The Terminal Man||Mike Hodges|
|1993||Rising Sun||Philip Kaufman|
|1993||Jurassic Park||Steven Spielberg|
|1997||The Lost World: Jurassic Park||Steven Spielberg|
|1999||The 13th Warrior (Eaters of the Dead)||John McTiernan|
|2008||The Andromeda Strain (TV miniseries)||Mikael Salomon|
He has written the screenplay for the movies Extreme Close Up (1973) and Twister (1996) (the latter co-written with Anne-Marie Martin, his wife at the time). Jurassic Park III is a sequel to The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park, both based on Crichton's novels, but Jurassic Park III isn't based on one of his novels, though he help write the screenplay.
Crichton is also the creator and executive producer of the television drama ER. ER was originally slated to be a movie, directed by Steven Spielberg. However, during the early stages of pre-production, Spielberg asked Michael Crichton what his current project was. Crichton said he was working on a novel about dinosaurs and DNA. Spielberg subsequently dropped what he was doing to film this project. Afterwards, he returned to ER and helped develop the show, serving as a producer on season one and offering advice (he insisted on Julianna Margulies becoming a regular, for example). It was also through Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment that John Wells was contacted to be the show's executive producer. In December 1994, he achieved the unique distinction of having the #1 movie (Jurassic Park), the #1 TV show (ER), and the #1 book (Disclosure, atop the paperback list). Crichton has written only three episodes of ER:
In 1999, Crichton founded Timeline Computer Entertainment with David Smith. Despite signing a multi-title publishing deal with Eidos Interactive, only one game was ever published, Timeline. Released on 8 December 2000 for the PC, the game received poor reviews and sold poorly.
Peter Doran, author of the paper in the January 2002 issue of Nature which reported the finding referred to above, that some areas of Antarctica had cooled between 1986 and 2000, wrote an opinion piece in the July 27, 2006 New York Times in which he stated "Our results have been misused as 'evidence' against global warming by Michael Crichton in his novel State of Fear". Crichton himself states in the book that though he uses a number of studies to support his stance, the authors of these studies do not necessarily agree with his interpretations. Additionally, some of the characters in the novel caution that they do not necessarily claim that global warming is not an issue, but only that more research is necessary before we make any definitive conclusions.
Al Gore said on March 21, 2007 before a US House committee: "The planet has a fever. If your baby has a fever, you go to the doctor [...] if your doctor tells you you need to intervene here, you don't say 'Well, I read a science fiction novel that tells me it's not a problem.'" This has been recognized by several commentators as a reference to State of Fear.
A real person named Michael Crowley is also a Yale graduate, and a senior editor of The New Republic, a Washington D.C.-based political magazine. In March 2006, the real Crowley wrote an article strongly critical of Crichton for his stance on global warming in State of Fear.