Novelist Michael Crichton Dead at 66

Best-selling sci fi author Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park) has died of cancer.
"Michael Crichton died unexpectedly in Los Angeles Tuesday, November 4, 2008 after a courageous and private battle against cancer," said a statement posted on the author's website. "While the world knew him as a great story teller 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 did this with a wry sense of humor that those who were privileged to know him personally will never forget."

Crichton's blockbuster novels--some selling over 100 million copies--have been translated in 36 languages, and 13 of them made it to the big screen.

"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.

Chicago-born Crichton graduated summa cum laude from Harvard College. By the time he received his MD from Harvard Medical School, he already had published his first bestseller, The Andromeda Strain. Despite his literary and showbiz success, he kept one foot in academia by teaching courses at Cambridge University and MIT.

"Few popular authors have achieved the greatness of Michael Crichton, who always made you feel like you were learning something in the middle of the awesome adventure unfolding in his novels," professed RAY STERN of the Phoenix News Times. "He was kind of like Stephen Hawking and Stephen King rolled into one."

Among the Crichton novels that received cinematic treatment were The Lost World, Disclosure, Congo, Timeline, Sphere, and The 13th Warrior (aka Eaters of the Dead). Crichton also directed the screen version of his novel, The Great Train Robbery, starring Sean Connery, the actor who later inspired the character John Connor in Crichton's Rising Sun, the movie adaptation of which--believe it or not--starred Connery as Connor.

"Michael's talent out-scaled even his own dinosaurs of Jurassic Park. He was the greatest at blending science with big theatrical concepts, which is what gave credibility to dinosaurs again walking the earth," read a statement by director Steven Spielberg, who had known Crichton since their early days in Hollywood. "Michael was a gentle soul who reserved his flamboyant side for his novels. There is no one in the wings that will ever take his place."

Crichton put his medical school years to astonishingly lucrative use when he created the hit TV hospital drama E.R. Noah Wyle's character obviously was the writer's own fictional avatar. That NBC series, taking its final bow this year after 15 seasons, won Crichton an Emmy, a Peabody, and a Writer's Guild of America Award.

But even with all those accomplishments, KYLE MUNZENRIEDER of the Miami New Times insisted that "students of the University of Miami's film program will always remember [Crichton] as the writer/director of the sci-fi cowboy epic Westworld."

His last novel, Next, about genetics and law, was published in December 2006.

"If there's a human face to the word 'zeitgeist,' it must have belonged to Michael Crichton," wrote ROGER MOORE of the Orlando Sentinel. "[He] seemed a genuine genius at taking the cultural pulse and writing page-turning best sellers about our phobias, obsessions and technologies."

"He will be profoundly missed by those whose lives he touched," the web statement included, "but he leaves behind the greatest gifts of a thirst for knowledge, the desire to understand, and the wisdom to use our minds to better our world."

In 2002, a newly-discovered ankylosaur was named in honor of the Jurassic novelist: Crichtonsaurus bohlini.

[Thanks to AP's HILLEL ITALIE, Business Wire and]
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