While some are quick to dismiss science fiction as a having little impact on reality, the truth is that these minds often envision cutting edge technology and inspire scientists to go after it. Arthur C. Clarke, who recently passed away, popularized the idea of the space elevator. Many other authors could stake similar, if lesser claims to various pieces of technology. It is thus equally sad to the technology community, as it is to the literary community, when a great science fiction author passes.
Michael Crichton, age 66, passed away Tuesday unexpectedly "after a courageous and private battle against cancer". Dr. Crichton was a powerful writer of science fiction and medical drama, controversial at times, but widely regarded as one of the foremost authors of science fiction's "new guard".
Dr. Crichton, born in 1942, was a medical doctor receiving his M.D. from Harvard Medical School. He published his first book -- "The Andromeda Strain" -- while he was still in School at Harvard. The book, a cautionary tale about astronauts contracting a deadly alien plague, became an instant hit and cemented Crichton place in the writing community.
He wrote and directed for many films, including "The Great Train Robbery" (adapted from his fictional work, based on a true story from the 19th century), "Westworld" (1973), "Coma" (1978), "Looker" (1981) and "Runaway" (1984).
Famous science fiction works by Dr. Crichton include "Timeline", "Sphere", and "Congo". He is best known, though, for his wildly successful "Jurassic Park" series. The series centered around scientists using DNA and cloning to recreate dinosaurs, only to see their experiments go awry. This series produced two novels -- "Jurassic Park" and "The Lost World" -- and a hit film in 1993, which he co-wrote with Steven Spielberg. The film spawned two sequels of moderate success. There was never a third book in the series, despite much speculation.
His work has inspired some scientists to try to create a "real life" Jurassic Park. Scientist are currently working on two separate projects, one to revive the extinct Tasmanian tiger, and a second to create a park with cloned mammoths and other ice age mammals in Siberia.
He also co-wrote the screenplay for the hit movie "Twister" (1996)
Dr. Crichton also was known for the controversial nature of his cautionary tales. His book "Prey" was seen as a mandate against genetic engineering and nanotechnology, as its story revolved around a killer swarm of artificially intelligent bacteria-based nanobots.
Also controversial was his novel "Rising Sun", which questioned whether Japanese investment in electronics business in America was possibly harmful. And most recently, Dr. Crichton generated much controversy with his novel "State of Fear" which highlighted Dr. Crichton's skepticism of global warming, and revolved around a group of "environmentalist" terrorists plotting to incite public panic to further their plans.
Despite his controversial stands, Dr. Crichton is known for much less controversial work, including co-creating the hit television series -- "ER" -- with Steven Spielberg. "ER" rocketed George Clooney to stardom and redefined medical drama, paving the way for later shows like "Scrubs", "House: M.D.", and "Grey's Anatomy".
For his work with the series he won an Emmy -- just one of many awards he garnered.
Crichton was married 5 times and is survived by his most recent wife Sherri Alexander and his daughter Anne-Marie Martin.