Friday, October 29, 2010

Harvard Remembers Michael Crichton

Michael Crichton graduated from Harvard College in 1964 with a degree in anthropology. In the student newspaper The Crimson’s obituary, Crichton’s freshman roommate shared some memories:

“Michael always liked to stand with his heels on the fireplace so that he could get up a couple more inches above everybody else,” said Joseph W. Esherick ’64, Crichton’s freshman year roommate.

Though the pair differed in academic interests—Crichton studied physical anthropology and Esherick studied Chinese studies—Esherick said he “always thought we were put together as freshmen by height.” The three residents of Weld 17 were all over 6’4”, with Crichton standing the tallest….

Esherick, who is now a professor of Chinese studies at the University of California, San Diego, said Crichton was an “incredibly smart guy” who did not have the patience for “scholarly type of smarts.”

In 1969 Michael Crichton graduated from Harvard Medical School. In the Spring 2009 issue of the Harvard Medical Alumni Bulletin, a fellow medical student, William Ira Bennett, reflected on Crichton’s many talents:

Briefly Michael’s “patient,” I could easily imagine him as an academic physician, the sort exemplified by the chiefs of service in Harvard hospitals. His manner was self-contained but not aloof. Rather, his style was affably imperturbable.

While in medical school, Crichton was already writing paperback thrillers under the name “John Lange” and Bennett was not surprised that he ended up a writer rather than a physician. When Crichton published the medical thriller A Case of Need, he chose a different pseudonym— “Jeffery Hudson”— the name of a dwarf in the court of Charles I. Bennett recalls:

Michael often made small jokes about his height. I wasn’t surprised that he would know about seventeenth-century royalty; I always took for granted how much he knew. It would have been overwhelming to ask him where he had gleaned the tidbits that were regular and entertaining parts of his conversations. Although he had a gift for fiction, his delight often seemed to be in small facts, which peppered his writing much as they did his talk.

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