Five Fascinating Facts about Douglas Adams
1. One of Douglas Adams’s early jobs was as a bodyguard to a Qatari family of oil tycoons. He also had a job cleaning a chicken-shed at one point. The ‘eureka moment’ for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy came when he lay drunk in a field in Innsbruck, Austria in the early 1970s. At the time he was carrying a copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Europe with him, and it occurred to him – as he looked up at the stars – that ‘somebody ought to write a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’. It took a few years for the idea to take shape, but in 1978 the radio programme made its debut. A trilogy – comprising, as trilogies don’t tend to, five books – followed. If you want to see an interview with a young Douglas Adams talking about the series, there is a great Youtube clip of Adams being interviewed on the television programme Nationwide in December 1980, when Adams was just 28.
2. He made two appearances in Monty Python’s Flying Circus. He also briefly wrote for the comedy show. In his first appearance, in November 1974 (the final series of the TV programme), he played a doctor; in his second appearance, he played a Pepperpot (a number of middle-aged matronly characters played by men). Adams went on to write for the TV series Doctor Who, becoming script editor in 1979.
3. He came up with the title of Pink Floyd’s 1994 album The Division Bell. In this archived page from Adams’s website from the late 1990s, he mentioned that he once played guitar with the band on stage.
4. He claimed he was the first person in the United Kingdom to buy an Apple Macintosh computer. His friend Stephen Fry claims to be the second person (though some sources say Fry bought the first, and Adams the second). In 1990, Adams wrote and presented a documentary, Hyperland, about the potential of hypertext. Later that year, Tim Berners-Lee, working at CERN in Switzerland, developed HTML (i.e. ‘HyperText Markup Language’) and the world-wide web was born. Adams was an early adopter of email, and had his own email address in the early 1980s when he was working on the video game version of Hitchhiker’s.
5. His ashes are in Highgate Cemetery, where numerous other writers and famous figures are buried and memorialised. Also in Highgate Cemetery, you’ll find George Eliot, Karl Marx, Herbert Spencer, Beryl Bainbridge, Christina Rossetti, Elizabeth Siddal, and Charles Dickens‘s wife and parents. Adams is also commemorated every year on 25 May, which is named Towel Day in his honour (a reference to Hitchhiker’s). On that day, fans of Adams’s work ‘around the universe’ proudly carry a towel with them.
If you haven’t yet discovered the wonderful and hilarious world of Douglas Adams, we recommend picking up the entire ‘trilogy’, The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Trilogy in Five Parts, without more ado. Oh, and a towel, while you’re at it.
Discover more literary interestingness with our curious facts about classic science fiction.