Credit: Mary Altaffer/AP

E.L Doctorow, the author of many historical fiction novels, died of lung cancer Tuesday in New York, according to the New York Times. He was 84 years old.

Doctorow was a native New Yorker, growing up and spending his formative years in the Bronx before attending Ohio’s Kenyon College, a small liberal arts school. He spent one year at Columbia University graduate school before serving in the U.S. Army.

Before writing books, Doctorow edited them, including works by Ian Fleming and Ayn Rand. But then he took up a visiting writer fellowship at the University of California, Irvine, where he penned The Book of Daniel. The 1971 novel was a fictionalized account of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg’s, who were executed for espionage. It was hailed by the Times and other critics upon its release. His follow-up novel, Ragtime, was deemed one of the 100 greatest novels by the Modern Library Association.

Doctorow also wrote short fiction, plays, and essay throughout his career. He also held teaching posts at NYU, Princeton, Sarah Lawrence College, and the University of Utah. President Obama mourned the author’s passing on Twitter.

Doctorow is survived by his wife, Helen Esther Setzer, and their three children.

Read more on Doctorow’s life at the Times.