Biography of Douglas Adams

Douglas Adams is best known for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a humorous science-fiction series concerning the exploits of an oddball group of humans and aliens exploring the galaxy.

Adams was born on March 11th, 1952 in Cambridge, England. He was a shy child who was intelligent but not a great student. He entered Cambridge University at the age of 18, but he spent the year prior taking odd jobs across Europe to Istanbul. He had a Hitchhiker’s Guide to Europe and had the thought that he wished there was one to the galaxy. At Cambridge, Adams still struggled but received a degree in English in 1974. He then had a series of jobs that included office work, writing radio sketches, and working with Monty Python comedian Graham Chapman. Beginning in 1978, Adams was a writer and script editor for the television show Doctor Who, as well as a scriptwriter for the BBC.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy attained success first as a 12-part radio series in 1978-1980 and then as a 5-book series. Adams also published Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (1987), The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul (1988), The Meaning of Liff (with John Lloyd; 1983), The Utterly Utterly Merry Comic Relief Christmas Book (coeditor, with Peter Fincham; 1986), and Last Chance to See… (with Mark Carwardine; 1990), initially a radio series.

Adams was married and had one daughter. In later years, he was a lecturer and commentator on science and technology issues, and he lived in California. He died of a heart attack at the gym in May of 2001. After Adams’s death, his friend, the acclaimed author Neil Gaimon, remembered when he was first sent to interview Adams: “He was kind, he was funny, and he talked … he showed me his things. He was very keen on computers, which barely existed at that point. He was clumsy. He would back into things, trip over things, or sit down on them very suddenly and break them. He was famously late for deadlines, and did not ever appear to enjoy the act of writing very much… I haven’t known many geniuses in my life. Some brilliantly smart people, but only a tiny handful would I class as geniuses. I would class Douglas, because he saw things differently, and he was capable of communicating the way he saw things, and once he explained things the way he saw them, it was almost impossible to see them the way you used to see them.”

Study Guides on Works by Douglas Adams