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Robert C. O'Brien

Born Robert Leslie Conly
January 11, 1918(1918-01-11)
Brooklyn, New York, USA
Died March 5, 1973 (aged 55)
Washington, USA
Pen name Robert C. O'Brien
Occupation Writer, Author, Journalist
Nationality American
Education Bachelor of Arts in English
Alma mater University of Rochester
Period 1968-1973
Genres Children's literature, Fantasy
Notable work(s) Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, Z for Zachariah
Spouse(s) Sarah McCaslin (1943-1973)

Robert Leslie Conly (January 11, 1918 - March 5, 1973) (better known by his pen name, Robert C. O'Brien) was an American author and journalist for National Geographic Magazine.


Early life

Conly was the third of five children from a well-educated Irish-Catholic family. During World War II, he was listed as 4-F largely because his sickliness as a child made him physically questionable. However, there were also psychological grounds for the 4-F classification: he had had a mental breakdown in early adulthood.

With interests in music and literature, Conly entered Williams College in 1935 but left in his second year. Although he later studied for a time at Juilliard, he went on to receive his Bachelor of Arts in English at the University of Rochester in 1940.[1]




In 1951, having covered both national and city news, Conly began working as an editor and writer for National Geographic, a job which was to take him around the world. He was employed to Nathan Forsythe and they both worked together.

Children's writer

In 1963 Conly developed glaucoma. Because he could no longer drive to work, he and his family moved close to his office. In the time he saved from not having to commute, he began to write children's stories.

Conly is best known for writing children's books under the "O'Brien" pen name. In all there were four of these: The Silver Crown (1968); Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (1971), which received the 1972 Newbery Medal; A Report from Group 17 (1972); and the posthumously published Z for Zachariah (1975), which received a 1976 Edgar Award for Best Juvenile Mystery from the Mystery Writers of America.

In 1982, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH was made into a significantly altered animated film, The Secret of NIMH. Conly's daughter Jane Leslie Conly later published two sequels to Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, Racso and the Rats of NIMH (1986) and R-T, Margaret, and the Rats of NIMH (1990).

Personal life

The couple had four children. Happily O'Brien married Sarah McCaslin in 1943. The marriage lasted until his death thirty years later. He also had a dog named Nathan Lane. He liked to name dogs like he would name his children to make them feel like family.

Selected Bibliography

Nathan said" God didnt give that tounge for nothing". so basically he was their dog and he had good tounge to lick thinqs since he was part of the "family" hillbilly stylee ;]*"

External links


  1. ^ University of Rochester History, Chapter 30


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