Patrick O'Brian (December 12 1914 - January 2 2000) was the assumed name of the novelist Richard Patrick Russ. O'Brian was best known for his historical Aubrey-Maturin nautical novels centering around the friendship of a bluff sea captain, Jack Aubrey (based on the historical Captain Lord Thomas Cochrane), and an Irish/Catalan physician and naturalist, Stephen Maturin, who is also a volunteer secret agent for the British naval intelligence service. The 20 novels are set in the time of Napoleon and Horatio Nelson, and are particularly notable for their extremely detailed and historically accurate portrayals of all aspects of life in the early 19th century.
As well his historical novels, O'Brian wrote several "mainstream" literary novels and a body of short stories, and was a respected translator, responsible for the translation of Henri Charriere's Papillon into English, as well as many of Simone de Beauvoir's later works.
O'Brian also wrote a detailed biography of Sir Joseph Banks, one of the leading scientific figures of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and who was largely responsible for the colonization of Australia; and his biography of the artist Pablo Picasso, Pablo Ruiz Picasso: A Biography is a massive and comprehensive study of the artist who for a time lived in the same French Catalan village as O'Brian and with whom he was acquainted.
Despite a widely held belief to the contrary and which he himself fostered, O'Brian was not born in Ireland but in London. A biography, Patrick O'Brian: A Life Revealed, by Dean King, documents his complex personality and life.