Philip Pullman was born in Norwich, England, in 1946. His father was a pilot, so the family lived in various countries around the world. His father died in a plane crash in 1953, and his mother then remarried, the family settling eventually in North Wales. Pullman was educated at Ysgol Ardudwy in Harlech, and later at Exeter College, Oxford, where he read English.
Pullman received a third class degree in 1968, and embarked on a career in education, aged 25. He taught at various Oxford Middle Schools before joining Westminster College in 1986, where he remained for eight years. During this time Pullman wrote school plays, and several children's novels and short stories. His first published work was The Haunted Storm (1972) which, although it won joint-first place in the New English Library's Young Writer's Award, he refuses to discuss. Other works from this time include Galatea (1978), an adult fantasy novel, and Count Karlstein (1982), his first children's novel. The first novel of his series The Ruby in the Smoke was also published in 1985, prompting demand for three further installments.
However he is best known for the His Dark Materials trilogy: Northern Lights (US: The Golden Compass), The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass. He began work on the trilogy in 1993, and gave up teaching to write full time after Northern Lights was published in 1995. Inspired by the illustrations of William Blake and John Milton's Paradise Lost (from which the trilogy gets its name), the trilogy has a controversial religious theme and has often been compared to the more pro-Christian The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe. The books have been honoured with several prizes, including the Carnegie Medal, the Guardian Children's Book Award and the Whitbread Book of the Year.
Pullman himself has been honoured with several awards: in 2005 he was awarded the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, and in 2007 he was made an honorary professor at Bangor University. On 24th June 2009, he was made a doctor of Letters by the University of Oxford.
Often uncompromising and always outspoken in his views, Philip Pullman remains a treasured author and commentator in the UK. He is a regular participant in debates about religion, and recently published the deeply provocative The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ. He is currently working on the eagerly awaited sequel to His Dark Materials, The Book of Dust, and The Adventures of John Blake.