Douglas Noel Adams was born on 11 March 1952 in Cambridge. His parents divorced when he was five, and Douglas and his younger sister Susan were brought up by their mother in Essex. From 1959 to 1970 Douglas attended Brentwood School, and he first thought seriously about writing when a teacher named Frank Halford gave him ten out of ten for a composition. He was the only boy ever to have been awarded full marks.
Leaving school in December 1970, Douglas won a scholarship to study English at Cambridge. His main reason for going there was to join Footlights, although his first attempt to do so was a failure. He succeeded in joining in his second term, but found the group which ran the society a bit stand-offish. He also felt constrained by the limits of pantomimes and mid-term revues, so instead he set up his own revue group, Adams-Smith-Adams, with two friends. It was very successful.
Douglas left Cambridge in the summer of 1974 and took occasional office jobs before joining forces with Monty Python team member Graham Chapman. They collaborated on a number of projects; unfortunately, very few of them were ever broadcast. A while later he was invited to Cambridge to direct the 1976 Footlights revue, but even this turned out to be a disappointment. At the end of the year, broke and feeling like a failure, Douglas moved back home with his mother.
In 1977 his luck changed. Through his former flatmate John Lloyd, Douglas met BBC Radio 4 producer Simon Brett. He felt that Douglas' style of humour should have its own show, rather than being crammed into existing formats. Having been inspired by a copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Europe, Douglas came up with a draft for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. After several delays the first six-episode series was broadcast, with a second rapidly following. The worldwide phenomenon they spawned includes five novels, a book of scripts, two LPs, a television series, a computer game and two stage plays.
In addition to Hitchhiker, Douglas' work included two Dirk Gently detective novels and two humorous place-name 'dictionaries', The Meaning of Liff and The Deeper Meaning of Liff (both co-written with John Lloyd) as well as Last Chance to See, an account of a global search for rare and endangered species which he co-wrote with Mark Carwardine.
In 1999 Douglas moved to Santa Barbara with his wife and daughter to work on a proposed Hitchhiker film. Always a keen advocate of new technology, his last series for Radio 4 was The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Future, a look at the advances mankind was likely to make in future years.He died suddenly of a heart attack, aged 49, in May 2001. A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy feature film was produced in 2005, whilst both Stephen Mangan and Samuel Barnett have portrayed Dirk Gently on television in recent years.