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'Jurassic Park' Author Michael Crichton Dead at 66

"Jurassic Park" author and "ER" creator Michael Crichton died Tuesday at age 66, according to a statement from his family.

The novelist passed away in Los Angeles after a private battle with cancer. The family said his death was unexpected in a statement available on his Web site.

"While the world knew him as a great story teller 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," his family said.

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"He did this with a wry sense of humor that those who were privileged to know him personally will never forget."

A private funeral service is planned, a publicist for Crichton told FOXNews.com, but he declined to offer further comment.

Director Steven Spielberg told FOXNews.com in a statement that Crichton's "talent out-scaled even his own dinosaurs of 'Jurassic Park.'"

Crichton and Spielberg became friends when Crichton sold "The Andromeda Strain" to Robert Wide at Universal Studios, where Spielberg had just been hired as a contract television director.

"My first assignment was to show [him] around the Universal lot," Spielberg said. "We became friends and professionally 'Jurassic Park,' 'ER' and 'Twister' followed."

"He was the greatest at blending science with big theatrical concepts, which is what gave credibility to dinosaurs again walking the earth," Spielberg said. "There is no one in the wings that will ever take his place."

Indeed, both Crichton's personal and professional stories were remarkable.

According to his publisher Random House, the Chicago-born author attended Harvard University, where he graduated with the highest honors. He paid his way through medical school by writing pseudonymous thrillers and after winning an Edgar Award for 1968's "A Case of Need," he wrote the bestseller "The Andromeda Strain" — all before graduation. He later pursued postgraduate studies at the Salk Institute before becoming a full-time writer.

In addition to "Jurassic Park," Crichton also wrote "The Lost World," "Sphere" and "Disclosure."

In recent years, he was the rare writer to get on well with President George W. Bush, perhaps because of his skepticism about global warming, which Crichton addressed in the 2004 novel, "State of Fear." Crichton's views were strongly condemned by environmentalists, who alleged that the author was hurting efforts to pass legislation to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide.

A new novel by Crichton had been tentatively scheduled to come out next month, but publisher HarperCollins said the book was postponed indefinitely because of his illness.

FOXNews.com's Allison McGevna and the Associated Press contributed to this report.