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Author Information: Hugh Lofting

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Hugh John Lofting, creator of Dr. Dolittle, was born in Maidenhead, Berkshire, England, on January 14, 1886. Trained as a civil engineer at MIT and London Polytechnic, he worked on a railway survey in Canada, then for the Lagos Railway in West Africa and the Railway of Havana in Cuba before tiring of the engineer's life. In 1912 he married and moved to New York to make a career as a freelance writer. But he was still a British subject, and when WWI broke out, after working for the British Ministry of Information in New York for a while, he went overseas with the Irish Guard in 1917. It was then that he wrote the tales that later became The Story of Doctor Dolittle, as illustrated letters to his children Elizabeth and Colin. After receiving a crippling wound in the thigh, he was relieved of duty and returned to the U.S. to settle in Connecticut and concentrate on his writing. The Story of Doctor Dolittle was a success, and the sequel, The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle, won a Newbery Medal. He continued to write stories of John Dolittle of Puddleby-on-the-Marsh, illustrated with his own distinctive drawings, turning out a new book every year or two, until his death in Topanga, California in 1947 at the age of 61. The final novel, Doctor Dolittle and the Secret Lake, was published after his death. Hugh Lofting is buried in Killingsworth, Connecticut.

Lofting did not consider himself to be writing only for children, and said he had often been shocked to see his books classified as "Juveniles". When his son Colin was working out West as a cowboy one year (he later wrote tales based on his experience) his father came to visit and embarrassed his son by breaking out his latest Doctor Dolittle novel to read aloud around the campfire. Colin soon realized, however, that his hard-bitten bunkmates had no intention of poking fun at his old man—they listened with rapt attention as Lofting read the latest installment of the biography of the dumpy little Doctor from Puddleby.



©Steven Jeffery /, 2017
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