Jan Morris, whose change from male to female shook international culture in the early 1960s, led a life of extraordinary courage and literary accomplishment.
The acclaimed journalist, historian, travel writer and memoirist died Friday at 94 in a hospital near her home in North Wales, according to media reports.
Born male and named James Morris, she believed from early childhood that she was female. Despite her conviction that she was of the wrong gender, she as James Morris served as an British army intelligence officer in World War II, was a husband and father, and achieved fame as the journalist who broke the story of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay ascending Mount Everest.
James Morris as a London Times reporter accompanied Hillary on his 1953 Everest expedition, leaving before reaching the summit to break the news with a coded message, first transported by a runner. The story ran on the morning of Queen Elizabeth II's coronation.
As a reporter for the Guardian, Morris also broke a major story about French involvement in the 1956 Suez Canal Crisis, in which Israel and Egypt went to war over Egyptian leader Gamel Nasser's nationalization of the canal.
The success of Morris' cultural history "Venice" in 1960 allowed him to leave newspaper journalism and write books full-time.
On his trips to the Italian coastal city, he'd begun taking hormones to change to female, completing the transition with an operation in Casablanca in 1972.
Jan Morris' account of the change, "Condundrum," touched off a cultural controversy, including a notorious review by Rebecca West castigating Morris for becoming female.
Morris' act of supreme courage gained increasing acceptance through the years, no longer overshadowing Morris' accomplishments as a writer. Her three-volume history "Pax Britannica" is considered a major work, and her travel writing and essays are acclaimed.
While some critics, following West, see James Morris and Jan Morris as separate writers, with different sensibilities, I consider her career a continuum, showing a unified consciousness. Along with writers like Samuel Johnson, George Eliot, Charles Lamb, Virginia Woolf and others, her work will continue to be read.