Douglas Adams, 11 March 1952 – 11 May 2001
It was 1971, and the eighteen-year-old Douglas Adams was hitchhiking his way across Europe with a copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Europe that he had stolen (he hadn’t bothered “borrowing” a copy of Europe on $5 a Day; he didn’t have that kind of money).
He was drunk. He was poverty-stricken. He was too poor to afford a room at a youth hostel (the entire story is told at length in his introduction to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Trilogy in Four Parts in England, and The Hitchhiker’s Trilogy in the US) and he wound up, at the end of a harrowing day, flat on his back in a field in Innsbruck, staring up at the stars. “Somebody,” he thought, “somebody really ought to write a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”
He forgot about the idea shortly thereafter.
Five years later, while he was struggling to think of a legitimate reason for an alien to visit Earth, the phrase returned to him. The rest is history…