Christopher Hitchens, Controversial Writer, Dies of Cancer

12/16/2011 at 07:50 AM EST

Christopher Hitchens Dies of Esophageal Cancer
Christopher Hitchens
Nancy Kaszerman/Zuma
Writer and intellectual Christopher Hitchens died of pneumonia Thursday at the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, after battling esophageal cancer. He was 62.

Born in Portsmouth, England, Hitchens studied at Oxford University and moved to the United States in 1981. As a journalist, known among his peers and colleagues as "Hitch," he reported on national and international affairs for publications including The Nation, The Atlantic and Vanity Fair, for which he was a contributing editor. Targets of his often-inflammatory criticism included Mother Teresa and Bill Clinton.

He is also the author of several books, including his 2010 memoir, Hitch-22 and 2007's God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, which became a bestseller.

"Christopher Hitchens was a wit, a charmer, and a troublemaker, and to those who knew him well, he was a gift from, dare I say it, God," Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter wrote in a tribute.

Hitchens, an unwavering supporter of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, also famously wrote a piece on the firsthand experience of being waterboarded in 2008 for Vanity Fair.

A staunch atheist, he scoffed at the notion of converting to religion late in life after he was diagnosed with cancer in 2010.

In his final essay for Vanity Fair, dated January 2012, Hitchens affirmed: "So far, I have decided to take whatever my disease can throw at me, and to stay combative even while taking the measure of my inevitable decline."

Hitchens is survived by his wife, Carol Blue; their daughter, Antonia; two children from a previous marriage, Alexander and Sophia; and his brother, Peter.

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