Douglas Noel Adams was born March 11th, 1952 in Cambridge. He has made considerable reference to the fact that he officially came out of Cambridge as DNA nine months before Deoxyribonucleic acid was discovered.
He attended Brentwood School in Essex from 1959 to 1970 and it was at this institution that a teacher of his -- Frank Halford -- once awarded him a grade of 10 out of 10. It is apparently the only 10 out of 10 Mr. Halford has ever awarded. This fact, Adams said, is what he turned to whenever he would get writer's block (which he claimed was often), and not the fact that he has had bestsellers.
Adams had originally dreamed of becoming a nuclear physicist, or perhaps even a rock star, but it was English that he went to study at Cambridge. He wanted to become a writer-performer like one of his heroes, python member John Cleese, and he felt he was tall enough to do the job (both men are a staggering 6 foot 5). While at Cambridge, he started a group with Will Adams and Martin Smith known as Adams-Smith-Adams where he was known to enjoy dressing up like a turkey.
After graduating in 1974, Adams caught the attention of python member Graham Chapman, who was impressed by some Footlights sketches he wrote during college. They worked together for about a year, after which Douglas douglas took a series of odd jobs, fearing that his dreams of becoming a writer would never amount to anything. He would later reunite with Geoffrey Perkins, whom he had worked with when Perkins had directed a footlights show, and who would produce the radio version of Hitchhiker's.
So the story goes, the title for the series came to Douglas when he was 18 and hitchhiking through Europe. He was drunk, broke, and lying in the middle of a field in Innsbruck with his copy of The Hitchhiker's Guide to Europe when it suddenly occurred to him that someone should write a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It didn't occur to him that he would be the one, and when searching for a title for his radio series years later, this is the name that would come to him.
In 1977, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy radio series was approved by BBC Radio 4. The concept was created by Adams and Simon Brett. Douglas seemed to have little idea of where the show was headed, and would often write and re-write even as the show was being recorded, or hours before. For the final two episodes of the first series, he had to call in a favour from his friend John Lloyd to help him finish writing. Adams was always terrible with deadlines. Later, when writing the fourth novel of Hitchhiker's, his editor would have to lock him in a room in order to produce the work.
Soon after series aired in 1978, Douglas found himself writing a second radio series, a novel based on the first, the script for the television series, and episodes of Doctor Who. Douglas actually hated the process of writing. He much preferred working in groups where he could bounce ideas off of other people. Some of his favourite procrastinating activities included: making sandwiches, playing guitar, and taking exceptionally long baths.
The books, when finally written, became immensely popular. Douglas would eventually write 2 more sequels, earning the series the title of trilogy, and then another 2 sequels, while still maintaining the title of trilogy, however inaccurate it was. Douglas also cowrote with John Lloyd two books, The Meaning of Liff and The Deeper Meaning of Liff, which dealt with the common feelings that everyone recognizes, but which do not yet have names, and assigning those feelings the names of places.
In the late 80s, needing a break from Hitchhiker's, Douglas wrote two novels, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency and The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul. The main character and plot of the books resemble an episode of Doctor Who he had written for the series earlier on.
Douglas was deeply influenced by music. He especially loved classical and rock music. From very early on, The Beatles had been especially important to him, and he felt there was something "extraordinarily clever" about the Beatles, even if he didn't realize at the time that it was art. Bach was another major inspiration, as is in fact worked in to Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. It was his opinion that if other life forms were to ever come across human achievement, showcasing the work of JS Bach would be something like showing off, because to him, Bach was perfect. Douglas was also known to have been friendly with the bands Procol Harum and Pink Floyd. Procol Harum's Grand Hotel is said to have inspired the Restaurant at the End of the Universe scene. On Douglas' 42nd birthday, he made a guest appearance at one of Pink Floyd's concerts to play guitar.
Douglas Adams also had a great interest in technology and computer science, despite how he satirized it in his writing. He had said that he would have liked to be a software engineer, if such a career existed when he was younger. He was responsible for the text-based video game version of Hitchhiker's as well as an original game, Starship Titanic, which was later adapted into a novel by Terry Jones. Adams was also an enthusiastic Mac user, and was even used a spokesperson for their products. It has also been pointed out that the sub-etha net, a wireless network used by the electronic guide in Hitchhiker's was a foretelling of the technology of the internet.
Douglas claimed himself to be a "radical atheist" in that he not only believed there is no God, but he was convinced there is no God. He used the term "radical" loosely to signify that he really meant atheist, not agnostic, and that he had in fact thought about it a great deal and it is a belief he held seriously.
Of his varied interests, the one he became most passionate about in the later part of his life were environmental issues. He had a fascination with ecology, zoology and evolution. After a trip to Madagascar in search of a rare lemur, he was inspired to write a non-fiction book called Last Chance to See with Mark Cawardine. It is probably his least popular book, but his own personal favourite. He is a patron for the Save the Rhino charity and once participated in fund-raiser which involved climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in a rhino costume.
On May 11, 2001, Douglas Adams died of a heart attack at age 49. He was working out at a private gym in Santa Barbara. At the time of his death, he was living in the States, working on a movie version of Hitchhiker's. As Richard Dawkins described his death, "Science has lost a friend, literature has lost a luminary, the mountain gorilla and the black rhino have lost a gallant defender ... Apple computers has lost its most eloquent apologist."