"While the world knew him as a great storyteller that challenged our preconceived notions about the world around us - and entertained us all while doing so - his wife Sherri, daughter Taylor, family and friends knew Michael Crichton as a devoted husband, loving father and generous friend who inspired each of us to strive to see the wonders of our world through new eyes."

He was an experimenter and populariser known for his stories of disaster and systematic breakdown.

They include the rampant microbe of The Andromeda Strain or the dinosaurs running madly in Jurassic Park.

Hollywood impact

Many of his books became major Hollywood films, including Jurassic Park, Rising Sun and Disclosure.

Crichton himself directed and wrote The Great Train Robbery and he co-wrote the script for the blockbuster Twister.

In 1994, he created the award-winning TV hospital series ER. He has even had a dinosaur named for him, Crichton's ankylosaur.

"Michael's talent outscaled even his own dinosaurs of Jurassic Park", said Jurassic Park director Steven Spielberg, a friend of Crichton for 40 years.

"He was the greatest at blending science with big theatrical concepts, which is what gave credibility to dinosaurs again walking the Earth.

Crichton's works have given credibility to dinosaurs again walking the earth [EPA]
"Michael was a gentle soul who reserved his flamboyant side for his novels. There is no one in the wings that will ever take his place."

John Wells, executive producer of ER, called the author "an extraordinary man. Brilliant, funny, erudite, gracious, exceptionally inquisitive and always thoughtful".

"No lunch with Michael lasted less than three hours and no subject was too prosaic or obscure to attract his interest. Sexual politics, medical and scientific ethics, anthropology, archaeology, economics, astronomy, astrology, quantum physics, and molecular biology were all regular topics of conversation."

Neal Baer, a physician who became an executive producer on ER, was a fourth-year medical student at Harvard University when Wells, a longtime friend, sent him Crichton's script.

"I said, 'Wow, this is like my life.' Michael had been a medical student at Harvard in the early '70s and I was going through the same thing about 20 years later," said Baer.

ER offered a fresh take on the TV medical drama, making doctors the central focus rather than patients.

In the early life of ER, Crichton, who had not been involved in medicine for years, and Spielberg would take part in writers' room discussions.