From Medical Examiner to Author: The Fascinating Bio of Patricia Cornwell


Patricia Cornwell is a name that has become synonymous with the crime fiction genre. The best-selling author has captivated readers for over three decades with her suspenseful and gripping stories. But before becoming a celebrated author, Cornwell had a career that many may find surprising – she was a medical examiner.

Cornwell was born in Miami, Florida in 1956. Her love for writing began at a young age, and she would often create her own mystery stories. However, she did not initially pursue a career in writing. Instead, Cornwell attended Davidson College in North Carolina and graduated with a degree in English. She then went on to work as a reporter for The Charlotte Observer and later as a technical writer and police reporter for The Richmond Times-Dispatch.

It was not until Cornwell landed a job at the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office in Virginia that she found her true calling. She was hired to work in the computer department, but she quickly became interested in the work of the medical examiners. Cornwell had always been fascinated by forensic science, and this job allowed her to be a part of it firsthand. She would often accompany the medical examiners on autopsies and learn about the process of solving crimes through forensic evidence.

Cornwell’s in-depth knowledge and experience in the field of forensic science would go on to play a significant role in her writing career. In 1984, she published her first novel, “Postmortem,” introducing the world to her iconic character, Dr. Kay Scarpetta, a medical examiner and forensic pathologist. The novel was an instant success, and it would be the first in a long-running series featuring Scarpetta as the main protagonist.

What sets Cornwell’s writing apart is her attention to detail and accuracy. As a former medical examiner herself, she is well-versed in the procedures and terminology used in the field. Cornwell’s meticulous research and technical knowledge have made her one of the most respected and well-regarded writers in the crime fiction genre.

Aside from being a writer, Cornwell is also a dedicated advocate for forensic science. She often speaks at conferences and universities, highlighting the importance of this field in the criminal justice system. In 2001, she even donated $1 million to create the Virginia Institute of Forensic Science and Medicine, which provides training and education for forensic scientists.

Cornwell’s success as a writer has been unparalleled. She has sold over 100 million copies of her books worldwide and has had over 20 consecutive New York Times bestsellers. Her work has been translated into 36 languages and has been adapted into major motion pictures and television series.

In addition to her Scarpetta series, Cornwell has also written other standalone novels and a non-fiction book entitled “Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper – Case Closed.” She has received numerous awards and accolades throughout her career, including the Edgar Award, the British Book Award, and the Crime Writer’s Association Cartier Diamond Dagger.

At the age of 65, Cornwell shows no signs of slowing down. She continues to write new books and still maintains a strong connection to the world of forensic science. Her passion, dedication, and talent have cemented her as one of the most influential and beloved crime writers of our time.

In conclusion, Patricia Cornwell’s journey from medical examiner to best-selling author is a testament to the power of following one’s true passion. Her unique background and extensive knowledge in forensic science have shaped her writing and have made her a household name in the literary world. Cornwell’s story is a fascinating one, and her influence on the crime fiction genre will continue to be felt for years to come.