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. "He was the greatest at blending science with big theatrical concepts, which is what gave credibility to dinosaurs again walking the Earth. ... 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."
John Wells, executive producer of "ER" called the author "an extraordinary man. Brilliant, funny, erudite, gracious, exceptionally inquisitive and always thoughtful.
"No lunch with Michael lasted less than three hours and no subject was too prosaic or obscure to attract his interest. Sexual politics, medical and scientific ethics, anthropology, archaeology, economics, astronomy, astrology, quantum physics, and molecular biology were all regular topics of conversation."
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, who alleged that the author was hurting efforts to pass legislation to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide.
A new novel by Crichton had been tentatively scheduled to come next month, but publisher HarperCollins said the book was postponed indefinitely because of his illness.
One of four siblings, Crichton was born in Chicago and grew up in Roslyn, Long Island. His father was a journalist and young Michael spent much of his childhood writing extra papers for teachers. In third grade, he wrote a nine-page play that his father typed for him using carbon paper so the other kids would know their parts. He was tall, gangly and awkward, and used writing as a way to escape; Mark Twain and Alfred Hitchcock were his role models.
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. (One that the tall author used was Jeffrey Hudson, a 17th-century dwarf in the court of King Charles II of England.) He had modest success with his writing and decided to pursue it.
Crichton was married five times and had one child. A private funeral is planned.