The Da Vinci Code | Study Guide

Dan Brown

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Dan Brown | Biography


Dan Brown, a native New Englander, was born in Exeter, New Hampshire, on June 22, 1964. As a child he attended the prestigious Phillips Exeter Academy preparatory school, where his father taught mathematics. His mother was a musician, specializing in sacred Christian religious music. Dan Brown's parents instilled in him an interest in both mathematics—including number puzzles and codes—and religion. These interests introduced Brown to the tensions between religion and science, tensions he would explore in The Da Vinci Code with its secret Christian societies and their relationship to the Catholic Church.

Brown graduated from Amherst College in Massachusetts in 1986. At first he tried his hand at songwriting and moved to California with the intention of breaking into the music industry. He had little success, so he turned to writing prose instead. By 1993 Brown was teaching English and creative writing at his old school, Exeter. In 1995 he published 187 Men to Avoid, a guide to help women survive the pitfalls of dating.

While Brown was teaching at Exeter, agents from the U.S. Secret Service visited the school to talk to a student who had sent a prank email about killing the U.S. president. The situation piqued Brown's interest in undercover intelligence work and the U.S. agencies that carried it out. Brown's second book and first novel, Digital Fortress, came out in 1998. The novel described covert intelligence work and code breaking. Its limited success prompted Brown to expand on this theme in his next novel, Angels & Demons (2000), which introduced the world to the fictitious Harvard professor of symbology Robert Langdon. In this thriller Langdon uses his skills to save the Vatican from the Illuminati, an anti-Church sect founded during the Renaissance. The novel received favorable reviews, but its sales were disappointing. After publishing Deception Point in 2001, Brown revived the character of Robert Langdon in The Da Vinci Code, published in 2003.

The inspiration for The Da Vinci Code began to form in Brown's mind while he was studying art history in Spain. As he learned about the symbols hidden in many of Leonardo da Vinci's paintings, particularly in the Mona Lisa, Brown began to formulate the idea for his book. The novel explores art, symbolism, religion, the Catholic Church, extreme Christian sects, and codes and puzzles, all of which contribute to a search for the truth about the Holy Grail.

The Da Vinci Code was an international best-seller and was translated into over 40 languages; in 2005 Time Magazine named Brown one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. A hot button for controversy, the book was perceived by many readers as an attack on the Roman Catholic Church and as filled with historical fallacies. It was made into a 2006 film directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks as the protagonist, Robert Langdon.

The success of The Da Vinci Code renewed interest in Brown's earlier works, which began to sell well. In 2009 Hanks starred as Langdon in a film version of Angels & Demons. Brown continued Robert Langdon's story in the books The Lost Symbol (2009) and Inferno (2013), the latter of which was also turned into a movie starring Tom Hanks in 2016. Brown continues to write and lives with his wife in New Hampshire.

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