Jurassic Park Author Michael Crichton Earned a Medical School Degree in His Younger Years

Legendary author Michael Crichton earned an MD from Harvard Medical School. Learn how his background informs his books and other work.
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  • Best-selling author and director Michael Crichton is actually a Harvard-educated physician.
  • Many of his bestsellers, such as "Jurassic Park," have a science-driven plot.
  • Crichton compared working as a movie director to working in medicine.

Michael Crichton didn't analyze deadly extraterrestrial microorganisms or learn how to bring dinosaurs to life in his studies at Harvard Medical School. But he still used his science-heavy education and background to bring science fiction to life in unprecedented ways.

Many readers may not be familiar with Crichton's academic background. But it was medical school that gave him much of the scientific grounding he would rely on in subsequent years as he created bestseller after bestseller.

Crichton passed away in 2008, but his work continues to live on through the "Jurassic Park" film franchise and in his many books. Here's how a medical school degree launched him toward success in publishing.

Michael Crichton's Claims to Fame

According to his official website, Crichton was one of the most prolific thriller writers in history, with more than 26 books selling more than 250 million copies. While he is best known as a writer, he was also a major Hollywood director and even created the long-running television series "ER." Many of his novels were adapted into best-selling films, and "Jurassic Park" launched not just a film series but theme parks.

Crichton's best-known books include "The Andromeda Strain," "The Great Train Robbery," "Congo," "Sphere," "Jurassic Park," and "The Lost World." ("The Great Train Robbery," a work of historical fiction, is his only work that does not have a science- or technology-driven plot.)

His earliest goal was to be a writer, but he decided medicine would be more likely to provide him with a living. Still, even while attending medical school, he wrote and published under a pseudonym, as well as under his own name.

When "The Andromeda Strain" became a bestseller, Crichton left medicine before actually practicing. Years later, he commented on his website about his ambivalence toward practicing medicine.

"I was at odds with the thrust of the profession at the time, which was highly scientific medicine: the physician as technician and the patient as biological machine that was broken," he wrote.

However, he retained his deep interest in science, technology, and the human implications of their use.

Michael Crichton's Medical Degree

As an undergraduate, Crichton graduated from Harvard summa cum laude and then continued to Harvard Medical School, where he graduated in 1969. He explored the implications of medicine and public policy as a postdoctoral fellow at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies before pursuing writing as a full-time career. Aside from his scientific thrillers, he also used his knowledge of medicine, healthcare, and the human sides of practicing medicine to develop the long-running television series "ER."

On his website, he also shared that his medical training helped prepare him to be a movie director — while directing, things are always going wrong, and you have to make fast decisions under high pressure. These are skills that students also develop in medical school.

The odds are high that you've watched one of Crichton's films, an episode of "ER," or a movie based on one of his books. Like millions of other people around the world, you've probably also read at least one of his many bestsellers. And now you know where he got his background for all of these pop culture phenomena.