Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller, better known as Agatha Christie, was born on September 15, 1890, in Torquay, England, the youngest of three children. Christie, who taught herself to read by age five, received the rest of her education through a mixture of tutors, part-time schooling, and from the age of 15 to 17, at French "finishing" schools. Part of her education included music and she was a very accomplished singer and pianist.
When Christie was eleven years old, her father died at the age of 55. Widow Clara formed an even closer bond with her daughter Agatha after the tragedy. Without her husband, Clara became restless and began to travel, at times taking Agatha with her. Those early trips ignited Christie's love of travel.
In 1912, Agatha met aviator Archie Christie. The couple later married. It was wartime, and Agatha became a nurse at the Red Cross Hospital in Torquay. When the hospital opened a clinic dispensing drugs, she worked there and completed the examination of the Society of Apothecaries. So began her interest in the use of poisons. Her sister Madge challenged her to write a novel and the result was The Mysterious Affair at Styles. The method of death in the novel is poison, and was so well described that Christie received an unprecedented honor for a writer of fiction — a review in the Pharmaceutical Journal.
During the First World War there were Belgian refugees in most parts of the English countryside, Torquay being no exception. Although he was not based on any particular person, Christie thought that a Belgian refugee, a former great Belgian policeman, would make an excellent detective for The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Hercule Poirot was born.
1919 was a momentous year for Christie. With the end of the war, Archie had found a job in London, and the couple had just enough to rent an apartment. Later that year, Christie gave birth to their daughter Rosalind. Also that year the publisher, John Lane, who had liked The Mysterious Affair at Styles, contracted Christie to produce five more books.
Following the war, Christie continued to write and to travel with Archie. In 1926, Archie confessed his love for another woman and Agatha's mother died — creating an extremely unhappy time for Christie. In December, in some desperation, she drove to a hotel where she was found ten days later. Given all she had gone through, doctors diagnosed that she had simply forgotten who she was. She and Archie later divorced.
By 1930, having written several novels and short stories, Christie created a new character to act as sleuth. Miss Jane Marple was an amalgam of several old ladies Christie used to meet in villages she visited as a child.
Also in 1930, Christie met archaeologist Max Mallowan, the man who would become her second husband. Christie accompanied Max on his annual archaeological expeditions for nearly 30 years, and continued writing at home and on field trips. The two were married for forty-six years.
One of Christie's lifelong ambitions had been to travel on the Orient Express; her first journey took place in 1928. The atmosphere of the Middle East was not lost on Christie, as can be recognized in books such as Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile and They Came to Baghdad, among others.
After a successful career and a happy life, Christie died peacefully on January 12, 1976. For more on the life and work of Agatha Christie, visit http://www.agathachristie.com.