Michael Crichton has died of cancer, today. He is most known for his work Jurassic Park and the creation of the show E.R., but he is the author of numerous books and I have never stopped reading some of them. In middle school/high school I read Jurassic Park nearly ten times. Since then, I have read Congo and Sphere about once every two years. Crichton and King have dominated bookstore shelves for as long as I can remember.
As a Harvard Grad (M.D.) his views on science have been taken very seriously, but his statement that 'Environmentalism is a religion' earned him a great deal of criticism. He has often pointed his finger at poorly constructed scientific ideals like man-man global warming and the idea of nuclear winter. Not everyone agreed with him, but he did a brave thing by standing up to scientific paradigms. (And he sold a lot of books doing so.)
As a Medieval historian, I can tell you that in his book Timeline, a story of scientists who travel to the middle ages, he does a fantastic job of quoting his sources and explaining his research. (The movie sucks.) I wish every paper I read could be as thoroughly notated as that work of fiction.
Crichton introduced me to quantum physics, historical snobbery, the physics of space travel, the Congo, and a working knowledge of DNA. My point of view would be very different if he had not published books. He will be missed.