He studied English Literature at Cambridge University. While at university, he was a member of the prestigious Cambridge University Footlights Club. His academic experience inspired his highly regarded script for Doctor Who: Shada (1992), which was set in Cambridge but sadly never completed for television due to a strike at the BBC. The Eighth Doctor, Paul McGann, later starred in an animated version, Doctor Who: Shada (2003), which was broadcast online.
He had one daughter, Polly Jane Rocket Adams.
He claimed to have had the initial idea for his most famous work, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1981), while lying drunk in a field holding a copy of The Hitchhiker's Guide to Europe. He was working on having a film of it produced at the time of his death. This eventually became The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005), which featured his close friend Stephen Fry as the Narrator.
He died of an apparent heart attack on 11 May 2001; collapsed while working out in a gym.
The day before his death (10th May 2001) the Minor Planet Centre of the International Astronomical Union named asteroid 18610 "Arthurdent", after the character Arthur Dent in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1981).
He was left-handed and had a large collection of left-handed guitars.
He helped Keith Allen with his piano lessons.
He was a big fan of the progressive rock band Pink Floyd and a friend of the guitarist David Gilmour. At his request, he helped come up with a name for a new Pink Floyd album ("The Division Bell"). In exchange, Gilmour contributed £5000 to a charity of Adams' choice. He was also huge fan of The Beatles and referenced them constantly in his work.
He stated once that he always found it difficult to write for female characters.
The on-line translator Babelfish is named after the Babelfish that Adams wrote of in his novel "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." In "The Hitchhiker's Guide..." the Babelfish was a tiny fish that one puts in one's ear and then any of the galaxy's myriad languages they hear is automatically translated and heard in their native language. The instant messaging software Trillian is named after the lead female character in "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy."
In September 2004, new "Tertiary Phase" episodes of "The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy" BBC Radio 4 series debuted. Prior to his death, Adams had begun work with Dirk Maggs on adapting books 3-5 of the "trilogy" for radio. Maggs has taken on the mantle of finishing the writing (based on Adams' extensive notes) and directing the episodes. Phase 4 ("Quandary") began airing in May 2005, with phase 5 ("Quintessential") to follow.
The online site H2G2.com was created at his suggestion. The site is a web-based pseudo-encyclopedia, inspired by the style of Adams' fictional Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy (hence, HHGG, or H2G2). The site was one of the first "reference" web sites maintained by contributions from the public at large.
He was an early pioneer in the personal computer explosion of the 1980s and 90s. For example, he owned the first two Apple Macintosh computers sold in the UK; was heavily involved in the development of first-person computer games (such as the computer version of "The Hitch Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy", "Bureaucracy" and "Starship Titanic"); and was an early adopter of the Internet. For several years, he was actively involved in the Internet newsgroup, alt.fan.douglas-adams, and would often personally answer messages in that forum. However, as the Internet became more popular, the questions became more and more repetitions of the same (or were offensive and/or insulting), and his personal responses became rare.
Adams used to shower with the hot water running, and stay there until he had come up with an idea. His water bill was extremely high.
He was a founding member of the team that launched Comic Relief.
He had been a huge fan of the British science-fiction series Doctor Who (1963) since its debut and had submitted story ideas to the series which were initially rejected before being accepted to write Doctor Who: The Pirate Planet: Part One (1978). His second script for the series, Doctor Who: City of Death: Part One (1979), which he co-wrote with producer Graham Williams under the pseudonym of David Agnew, is regarded by many fans as one of the best stories in the series' entire run. It was voted the seventh greatest story in a Doctor Who (1963) Magazine poll in 1998 and the fifth greatest Doctor Who (1963) story in fan site Outpost Gallifrey's 40th Anniversary Poll.
When he died, his Internet site was flooded by condolence messages, a big amount of whose simply read "So long and thanks for all the fish", one of the catchphrases from the Hitchhiker's Guide. The same sentence is also his gravestone epitaph.
During a lecture Neil Gaiman told that when he was a guest in Adams' house, he asked "Where are the towels?" and Adams answered "I don't know". Half of the audience sniggered at that, and Gaiman said, "Many of you don't know why it's funny that Adams didn't know where his towels were. Too bad." It was a reference to the towels running joke in Hitchhiker's Guide.
He was proud that his initials spelled DNA and used to point it out.
He was well-known for his love of technology, especially products by Apple.
He was a notorious procrastinator and his editors once had to lock him inside of a hotel room to get him to finish a book.
Posthumously playing the part of Agrajag in the new "Tertiary Phase" episodes of "The Hitch Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy" BBC4 radio series (adapted from book 3, "Life, The Universe, and Everything"). This was done by incorporating recordings of him reading his books. [September 2004]
According to ''The Salmon of Doubt'', he once took an impromptu trip to Australia to comparatively test-drive a new underwater vehicle and a sting ray for an article so that he could procrastinate on a book. Similarly, he once hiked up Mt. Kilimanjaro - spending a part of a trip in a rhino suit - for similar purposes.
The Asteroid Apophis, which was classified as a Near Earth Object with a record-breaking Torino Scale rating and thought to be a threat to Earth in 2036(more accurate measurements followed and the threat was scaled down entirely) had the designation 99942. Numerology enthusiasts would notice that that is the UK Emergency Services phone number and the number of the Meaning of Life in quick succession.
From The Salmon of Doubt: "Douglas had an amazing capacity for procrastination, but more about that later...".
On the documentary Paris in the Springtime (2005), Steven Moffat claimed that if Adams had lived he would probably have been approached to write for the 21st century revival of Doctor Who (2005). This is despite the fact no other writer from the original series was used until 2017.
According to Peter Davison, Adams once told him that the secret to making Doctor Who (1963) well was "making it simple enough for the adults to understand but complicated enough to hold the children's attention".
Arcturan Mega-Camels do not feature in David Lindsay's 1920s Novel "A Voyage to Arcturus".