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Who is Douglas Adams?

By Wanda Albano
Updated Mar 06, 2024
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Douglas N. Adams, sometimes shortened to DNA, was a popular science fiction writer known for his dry wit and unmistakable British humor. He was born in Cambridge on March 1952 and studied at Brentwood School in Essex. He later attended St. John's College of the prestigious Cambridge University, where he received both his undergraduate (BA) and graduate (MA) degrees in English. He was married to Jane Belson, a lawyer, and has one daughter, Polly Adams.

It was a circuitous route that finally brought Douglas Adams to his literary career. Before he began writing in earnest, he took on a number of — literally — odd jobs. He has been a chicken shed cleaner, a barn builder, a hospital porter, and a bodyguard to the ruling family of Qatar.

Like most writers, Douglas Adams went through a lean period where he felt that he would never earn enough money from just writing. On 4 February 1977, however, Douglas Adams finally got his break. He had a meeting with Simon Barett, who ultimately encouraged him to write the sci-fi comedy story that had been brewing in his head. Barett then convinced the BBC to take on the project.

That project eventually became the thing for which Douglas Adams is most famous: the transcendental Hitchhiker's Guide series. It is in this collection of stories that Douglas Adams posited the number "42" as the "answer to life, the universe, and everything", as well as created cult characters Arthur Dent, an ordinary man who reluctantly finds himself hitchhiking the galaxy because his home planet of Earth has been demolished to make a hyperspace bypass, and Ford Prefect, an alien adventurer just out to have a good time.

The series first came to life as radio plays broadcast, with the help of Barett, by Radio BBC. Later it was transformed into stage plays, and then into a set of novels, which were eventually translated into multiple languages. The books all reached bestseller status and have become the recipient of many well-regarded awards. A delightfully low-budget television show was soon developed. Finally, a movie was produced and released in 2005 to mixed reviews.

Douglas Adams has been described to be many things by the people closest to him. He was, by turns, a brilliant comedy writer, a radical atheist, an intense procrastinator, an eager environmentalist, and a good friend. Fans and friends mourned his death on 11 May 2001. He was working out in the gym when he suffered a fatal heart attack. He was only 49.

Titles in the Hitchhiker’s Guide series include The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy; The Restaurant at the End of the Universe; Life, The Universe, and Everything; So Long and Thanks for the Fish; and Mostly Harmless.

Among some of Douglas Adams’ other works are the eponymous Dirk Gently series, a small collection of books centered on a strange sort of private investigator with quite the imagination, The Meaning of Liff and The Deeper Meaning of Liff, with John Lloyd, and Last Chance to See, with Mark Carwardine. The last book recounts Douglas Adams’ various environmental escapades. Douglas Adams has also written a few episodes of the institutional British program, Doctor Who.

PublicPeople is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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