Douglas Adams

Best known as the author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, English author Douglas Adams, was born in 11th March 1952 in Cambridge, England, and attended Primrose Hill Primary School in Brentwood. At nine, he passed the entrance exam for Brentwood School, an independent school whose alumni include Robin Day, Jack Straw, Noel Edmonds, and David Irving. Griff Rhys Jones was also a year below him. He attended the prep school from 1959 to 1964, then the main school until December 1970. He became the only student ever to be awarded a ten out of ten by Halford for creative writing, Some of his earliest writing was published at the school, such as reports or spoof reviews in the school magazine Broadsheet He also designed the cover of one issue of the Broadsheet, and had a letter and short story published nationally in The Eagle. in 1965, he was awarded a place at St John’s College, Cambridge to read English, Which he attended from 1971, though the main reason he applied to Cambridge was to join the Footlights, an invitation-only student comedy club that has acted as a hothouse for some of the most notable comic talent in England. he graduated from St. John’s in 1974 with a B.A. in English literature.

After university Adams moved back to London, determined to break into TV and radio as a writer. The Footlights Revue appeared on BBC2 television in 1974 and also performed live in London’s West End which led to Adams being discovered by Monty Python’s Graham Chapman. The two formed a brief writing partnership, earning Adams a writing credit in episode 45 of Monty Python for a sketch called “Patient Abuse”, which plays on the idea of mind-boggling paper work in an emergency, a joke later incorporated into the Vogons’ obsession with paperwork. Adams also contributed to a sketch on the album for Monty Python and the Holy Grail. During this time Adams also continued to write and submit other sketches elesewhere, though few were accepted. In 1976 his career had a brief improvement when he wrote and performed, to good review, Unpleasantness at Brodie’s Close at the Edinburgh Fringe festival.Some of Adams’s early radio work included sketches for The Burkiss Way in 1977 and The News Huddlines. He also wrote the 20 February 1977 episode of the Doctor on the Go,television comedy series, with Graham Chapman, and later became the script editor for Doctor Who.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was a concept for a science-fiction comedy radio series pitched by Adams and radio producer Simon Brett to BBC Radio 4 in 1977. Adams came up with an outline for a pilot episode, as well as a few other stories (reprinted in Neil Gaiman’s book Don’t Panic: The Official Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Companion) that could potentially be used in the series. It started life in 1978 as a BBC radio comedy and a after the first radio series became successful, Adams was made a BBC radio producer, working on Week Ending and a pantomime called Black Cinderella Two Goes East. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was also developed into a series of five books that sold over 15 million copies in his lifetime, a television series, several stage plays, comics, a computer game, and in 2005 a feature film. Adams’s contribution to UK radio is commemorated in The Radio Academy’s Hall of Fame.

Adams also wrote Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (1987) and The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul (1988), and co-wrote The Meaning of Liff (1983), Last Chance to See (1990), and three stories for the television series Doctor Who. A posthumous collection of his work, including an unfinished novel, was published as The Salmon of Doubt in 2002. Adams sent the script for the HHGG pilot radio programme to the Doctor Who production office in 1978, and was commissioned to write The Pirate Planet . He had also previously attempted to submit a potential movie script, which later became his novel Life, the Universe and Everything (which in turn became the third Hitchhiker’s Guide radio series). Adams then went on to serve as script editor on the show for its seventeenth season in 1979. Altogether, he wrote three Doctor Who serials starring Tom Baker as the Doctor: The Pirate Planet, City of Death and Shada Adams also allowed in-jokes from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to appear in the Doctor Who stories he wrote and other stories on which he served as Script Editor. Elements of Shada and City of Death were also reused in Adams’s later novel Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, Adams is also credited with introducing a fan and later friend of his, the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, to Dawkins’s future wife, Lalla Ward, who had played the part of Romana in Doctor Who.

Adams also played the guitar left-handed and had a collection of twenty-four guitars when he died in 2001 and also studied piano in the 1960s with the same teacher as Paul Wickens, the pianist who plays in Paul McCartney’s band (and composed the music for the 2004–2005 editions of the Hitchhiker’s Guide radio series). The Beatles, Pink Floyd and Procol Harum all had important influence on Adams’s work. Adams included a direct reference to Pink Floyd in the original radio version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, in which he describes the main characters surveying the landscape of an alien planet while Marvin, their android companion, hums Pink Floyd’s “Shine on You Crazy Diamond”. This was cut out of the CD version. Adams also compared the various noises that the kakapo makes to “Pink Floyd studio out-takes” in his nonfiction book on endangered species, Last Chance to See.

Adams’s official biography shares its name with the song “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd. Adams was friends with Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour and, on the occasion of Adams’s 42nd birthday (the number 42 having special significance, being the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything and also Adams’s age when his daughter Polly was born), he was invited to make a guest appearance at Pink Floyd’s 28 October 1994 concert at Earls Court in London, playing guitar on the songs “Brain Damage” and “Eclipse”. Adams chose the name for Pink Floyd’s 1994 album, The Division Bell, by picking the words from the lyrics to one of its tracks, namely “High Hopes”.

Gilmour also performed at Adams’s memorial service following his death in 2001, and what would have been Adams’ 60th birthday party in 2012. Douglas Adams was also a friend of Gary Brooker, the lead singer, pianist and songwriter of the progressive rock band Procol Harum. Adams also appeared on stage with Brooker to perform “In Held Twas in I” at Redhill when the band’s lyricist Keith Reid was not available. Adams was also an advocate for environmental and conservation causes, and a lover of fast cars, cameras, and the Apple Macintosh, and was a staunch atheist. Biologist Richard Dawkins also dedicated his book, The God Delusion, to Adams, writing on his death that, “Science has lost a friend, literature has lost a luminary, the mountain gorilla and the black rhino have lost a gallant defender.

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