Michael Crichton

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Dr. John Michael Crichton (born October 23, 1942) is an author and producer. His best-known works are science fiction: novels, films and television programs. His genre can be best described as techno-thriller which is usually the marriage of action and technical details. Many of his novels have medical or scientific underpinnings, reflecting his medical training and science background.


Crichton was raised in Roslyn, Long Island, USA, and attended Harvard University, where he graduated summa cum laude in anthropology. He went on to teach anthropology at Cambridge in England, later returning to Massachusetts to gain an M.D. degree from Harvard Medical School.

While in medical school, he wrote novels under the pen names John Lange and Jeffrey Hudson (under which pseudonym A Case of Need won the 1969 Edgar Award). He also co-authored Dealing with his younger brother Douglas Crichton under a 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 206 cm (6'9") tall in 1997 [1] (http://www.adara-interactive.com/crichton/ow_transcripts2.htm). "Lange" (adverb) means "for a long time" in German and Sir Jeffrey Hudson was a famous seventeenth century dwarf in Queen Henrietta Maria's court.

Noteworthy works

His best known novels include The Andromeda Strain (1969), which deals with a mysterious extraterrestrial virus-like pathogen, and Jurassic Park (1990), which postulates a world in which cloning can bring the dinosaurs back to life.

Other notable novels include Prey (2002), in which a swarm of nano-robots run out of control; Congo, about the search for semiconductor-grade industrial diamonds and a new breed of gorillas; Timeline, which deals with space-time travel and the 14th century; and State of Fear, which deals with eco-terrorism.

One prominent theme of his work is that of irresponsible or misguided scientific achievement. Scientists or technicians who discover a marvelous but dangerous thing are not always to blame. It's the system that lets one to acquire power that causes problems.

Scientific concepts

Crichton has been introducing latest breakthrough in science and technologies. Many of the ideas used by him were novel to an average reader who just watches TV and reads newspapers.

The "dinosaur heresies"

Before Jurassic Park, Robert T. Bakker's theory of "warm-blooded" and athlete-type dinosaurs was unimaginable to ordinary people, who were accustomed to seeing stop motion clay dinosaurs crawling sluggishly over the volcanic prehistorical terrains.

However, Crichton's version of highly intelligent man-eating dinosaurs was also criticized by scientists:

The scientific scheme is not completely outrageous; unless one looks too closely, ... Although they are dinosaurs ..., they could have been any death-dealing automata ... substitute hostile extraterrestrials, lunatic Nazis, or predatory androids and it would have been the same film with a different title -- Aliens, Raiders of the Lost Ark or Terminator 2. (Henry Gee, "Jaws with Claws," Nature 363:681, 1993.)

Literary techniques


From time to time, Crichton would recycle a well-known story's structure for his own story. For example: The Andromeda Strain was influenced by H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds. However, rather than reusing the early twentieth century plot devices, Crichton introduced the idea of an imaginary microscopic pathogen's evolution of virulence with his own story.

First-person narrative

Author surrogate

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 pseudonym whodunit stories, Crichton used first-person narrative to portray the hero, a Bostonian pathologist, who is running against the clock to clear a good friend's name from medical malpractice in a girl's death from a hack job abortion. That book was written in 1968, long before Roe v. Wade of 1973, the landmark case that partially legalized abortion in the U.S. It took the hero about 160 pages to find the chief-suspect, an underground abortionist, who was created to be the author surrogate. Then, Crichton gave that character three pages to justify his illegal practice.

False document

Some of Crichton's fiction use a literary technique called false document to increase readers' sense of authenticity. For example: Eaters of the Dead is a fabricated recreation of the Old English epic Beowulf in the form of a scholastic translation of Ahmad ibn Fadlan's tenth century manuscript. Others, such as The Andromeda Strain and Jurassic Park, incorporate fictionalized scientific documents in the form of diagrams, computer output, DNA sequences, footnotes and bibliography.

In The Terminal Man, he created a dialog between two computer programs, good-natured Saint George and evil-minded Martha which are variations of ELIZA, that went out of control. In the end, the Charlie Brown-like Saint George shouted "GO TO HELL I WILL KILL YOU:::::::::::::: ..." at the provocative Martha because she forced him to go berserk. It was used to foreshadow the forthcoming killing spree conducted by the ill-fated hero, a nice person implanted with an experimental computerized device to control his epilepsy.

A very similar human-extraterrestrial online dialog is in his Sphere. In that story, a panicked scientist in an underwater lab tries to talk the omnipotent but innocent "extraterrestrial life" from manifestating beautiful aquatic creatures that are harmful to human beings. At the end of the story, the reader will learn the true nature of that "extraterrestrial".

False revolution

A common criticism of Crichton's work is that they are generally based on the conceit of a "false revolution" -- while the novels describe potentially world-changing concepts such as alien plagues, cloned dinosaurs, and time travel, the books always end with the threat destroyed or the scientific breakthrough lost. In other words, the events described in the novels might as well never happened in the context of their fictional universes. This allows Crichton to avoid having to describe how, example, time travel or cloning of extinct animals would change society.


Apart from fiction, Crichton has written several other books based on scientific themes, amongst which is Travels, which also contains autobiographical episodes.

Jasper Johns

As a personal friend to the "Neo-Dadaist" artist Jasper Johns, Crichton compiled many of his works in a coffee table tome also named Jasper Johns. That book has been updated once.

Electronic Life

In another extreme in the technological front, Crichton authored Electronic Life, a book that introduced BASIC programming to its readers. In his words, being able to program a computer, is liberation:

In my experience, you assert control over a computer -- show it who's the boss -- by making it do something unique. That means programming it. ... [I]f you devote a couple of hours to programming a new machine, you'll feel better about it ever afterward. (p. 44)

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 seemed to be cancelled.

Entertainment industry career

Crichton has directed several motion pictures, including The Great Train Robbery, Westworld and Coma. The latter was based on a book of the same title written by another physician-turned-novelist Robin Cook. Many of his novels have in turn been filmed by others, including Jurassic Park, The Andromeda Strain, The Terminal Man, Sphere, Congo, Eaters of the Dead (as The 13th Warrior), Rising Sun and Timeline.

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 is also the creator and executive producer of the television drama ER.


  • Father: John Henderson Crichton
  • Mother: Zula Miller Crichton
  • Sister: Kimberly Crichton
  • Sister: Catherine Crichton
  • Brother: Douglas Crichton
  • Daughter: Taylor Crichton
  • Ex-wives:
    • Joan Radam (1965-1970)
    • Kathy St. Johns (1978-1980)
    • Suzanne Childs
    • Anne-Marie Martin (1987-2002)



Directed movies


Films based on the works of Michael Crichton

TV Series



Aliens Cause Global Warming

In 2003 he gave a controversial lecture at Caltech entitled "Aliens Cause Global Warming" [2] (http://www.sepp.org/NewSEPP/GW-Aliens-Crichton.html) in which he expressed his views of the dangers of consensus science and junk science—especially with regard to popular but disputed theories such as nuclear winter, the dangers of second-hand smoke and the global warming controversy. Crichton has been critical of widespread belief of ETs and UFOs, despite the fact that there is no conclusive proof of their existence. Crichton has commented that belief without a factual basis is more akin to faith. Faith alone is not a proper foundation for scientific belief.

Environmentalism as a religion

In a related and equally controversial speech given to the Commonwealth Club, called "Environmentalism as a religion" [3] (http://cdfe.org/religion.htm), Crichton describes what he sees as similarities between the structure of various religious views (particularly Judeo-Christian dogma) and the beliefs of many modern urban atheists who he asserts have romantic ideas about Nature and our past, who he thinks believe in the initial "paradise", the human "sins", and the "judgement day". He also articulates his belief that it is the tendency of modern environmentalists to cling stubbornly to elements of their faith in spite of scientific evidence to the contrary. Crichton cites what he contends are misconceptions about DDT, second-hand smoke and global warming as examples.

Widespread speculation in the media

In a speech entitled "Why Speculate?" [4] (http://www.crichton-official.com/speeches/speeches_quote03.html), delivered in 2002 to the International Leadership Forum, Crichton took the media to task for engaging in what he saw as pointless speculation rather than the delivery of facts. As an example, he pointed to a front-page article of the March 6 New York Times that speculated about the possible effects of U.S. President George W. Bush's decision to impose tariffs on imported steel. Crichton also singled out Susan Faludi's book Backlash for criticism, saying that it "presented hundreds of pages of quasi-statistical assertions based on a premise that was never demonstrated and that was almost certainly false". He referred to what he calls the "Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect" to describe the public's tendency to discount one story in a newspaper they may know to be false because of their knowledge of the subject, but believe the same paper on subjects with which they are unfamiliar. Crichton used the Latin expression "falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus", which he translated as "untruthful in one part, untruthful in all", to describe what he thought a more appropriate reaction should be. The speech also made several references to Crichton's by-now-familiar skepticism of environmentalists' assertions about the possible future ramifications of human activity on Earth's environment.


In the Media

Many of Crichton's publically-expressed views, particularly on subjects like the global warming controversy, have caused heated debate. As pointed out in Dr. Jeffrey M. Masters' review of the book "[F]lawed or misleading presentations of Global Warming science exist in the book, including those on Arctic sea ice thinning, correction of land-based temperature measurements for the urban heat island effect, and satellite vs. ground-based measurements of Earth's warming. I will spare the reader additional details. On the positive side, Crichton does emphasize the little-appreciated fact that while most of the world has been warming the past few decades, most of Antarctica has seen a cooling trend. The Antarctic ice sheet is actually expected in increase in mass over the next 100 years due to increased precipitation, according to the IPCC (although recent findings by NASA call this result into question). Additionally, Crichton correctly points out that there has been no rise in hurricane activity in the Atlantic over the past few decades (a point unchanged by the record four hurricanes that struck Florida in 2004)."

See also

Reference book

Elizabeth A. Trembley, 1996, Michael Crichton: A Critical Companion, Greenwood Press, ISBN 0313294143

External links


de:Michael Crichton es:Michael Crichton fr:Michael Crichton he:מייקל קרייטון it:Michael Crichton ja:マイケル・クライトン ko:마이클 크라이튼 nl:Michael Crichton pl:Michael Crichton sk:Michael Crichton sv:Michael Crichton


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