Robert Jordan was the pen-name of American author James Oliver Rigney Jr. Born on 17 October 1948, Rigney served in the United States Army during the Vietnam War. He trained as a nuclear physicist with the US Navy in Charleston, South Carolina but, after sustaining a leg injury he chose to focus on his first love, writing. He wrote historical novels under the pen names Reagan O'Neal and Jackson O'Reilly before choosing the name "Robert Jordan" to write a series of books based on Robert E. Howard's character of Conan the Barbarian.
After completing the Conan books in 1984, he presented Tom Doherty, the head of Tor Books, with an outline for a new fantasy trilogy named The Wheel of Time. Doherty was dubious that the detailed outline could fit in three books, so suggested they sign a contract for six novels instead. The first novel in the series, The Eye of the World, was published in 1990 to critical acclaim and immense sales. Ten more books followed, with the eleventh volume, Knife of Dreams, published in 2005. Shortly after its publication, Rigney confirmed to his fans that he had been diagnosed with cardiac amyloidosis, a rare blood disease. Despite a doubtful prognosis, Rigney lived for a further two years, during which time he devoted every possible moment to writing outlines and recording dictation notes so another author could finish the series. He sadly passed away on 16 September 2007.
At Jordan's request, his wife and series editor Harriet McDougal found another author to finish the series, Brandon Sanderson. Using Jordan's detailed notes, Sanderson completed the series in three volumes between 2009 and 2013.