Biography of Robert C. O'Brien

Robert Leslie Conly - who went by the pen name Robert C. O’Brien - was born in Brooklyn, New York. He attended Williams College and graduated from the University of Rochester and received a degree in English in 1940. He was the third of five children of a well-educated, literate family. At school he was admired for his wit, became editor of the school paper, and showed a great facility with words, especially in writing verse. Originally he wanted to become a pianist and studied at the Julliard School of Music in New York City. However, he changed his mind and decided to study English at the University of Rochester and got a BA degree in English in 1940. After graduation, he worked first for Newsweek magazine, and later, after his marriage in 1943, as a reporter and editor for the Washington Times-Herald. From 1951 until his death, he worked for the National Geographic magazine. He only started writing fiction in the last ten years of his life.

In 1953, he bought a small farm near Washington, DC, and lived with his wife and four children as a farmer. In his books, he recreated these experiences with the most accurate detail. Because of an eye illness, he decided to move back to Washington, DC, in 1963. It was then that he began to write a novel for children, The Silver Crown, which was published in 1968. It was followed by Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH in 1971. Z for Zachariah was completed by his wife and daughter, with the help of his notes, after his death in 1973.

Study Guides on Works by Robert C. O'Brien

Ever wonder what happens when an author passes away before his or her next book is completed? Z for Zachariah is one answer to that question. Author Robert C. O’Brien is probably most famous for his Newberry Award-winning classic Mrs. Frisby and...