Dr. Ian Malcolm is a key figure in the Jurassic Park universe. The character of Ian Malcolm functions as the "ironic commentator inside the story who talks about the action as it takes place. He is a mathematician at the Santa Fe Institute who specializes in chaos theory. His character is based on both Ivar Ekeland and James Gleick. Malcolm's all-black clothing style reflects that of Heinz-Otto Peitgen, a mathematician who wrote a richly illustrated book on fractals.
Throughout the first novel, he makes several predictions based on chaos theory about the consequences and ultimate failure of attempting to control nature. These predictions often prove to be correct. During his time on the island, Malcolm is seriously injured during the initial Tyrannosaur attack. He survives and is brought back to the visitor's center, and spends the remainder of the novel bedridden, usually under the influence of high doses of morphine, continuing to comment on the Park's inherent flaws and impending collapse. Though he is declared dead at the end of the novel, in the sequel, he explains that the declaration was premature. Due to timely intervention by Costa Rican surgeons, he survives the ordeal, but ends up with a permanent leg injury, requiring a cane to walk.
Malcolm is the primary protagonist of the second novel. This time, he is asked to join an expedition to Isla Sorna, Jurassic Park's secondary site, by wealthy adventurer Richard Levine. Malcolm initially declines, but decides to go when word comes back that Levine has gone alone and is trapped on the island. Malcolm takes charge of Levine's remaining expedition and mounts a rescue. The Ian Malcolm of this novel is more proactive and vigorous, and seems to know much more about dinosaurs. As in the first novel, however, Malcolm is again injured in a dinosaur attack but survives. In the film adaptation of the second novel, John Hammond hires Malcolm and others to visit the island in order to document the dinosaurs in their natural habitat. Malcolm agrees, but only to rescue his girlfriend, Dr. Sarah Harding, who had already set out for the island. Once there, the team must contend with a storm, menacing dinosaurs and a rival expedition intent on harvesting dinosaurs for a Jurassic Park-like attraction on the mainland.
In the first Jurassic Park movie, Dr. Ian Malcolm is hired by Donald Gennero, a lawyer from InGen, to examine and determine whether that it's new and upcoming theme park, Jurassic Park, is safe for the public. On the helicopter ride to Isla Nublar, the island that contains Jurassic Park, he meets two paleontologists, Dr. Ellie Sattler and and Dr. Alan Grant, who are also brought along to examine the park by the insistence of John Hammond, founder of InGen and Jurassic Park. Once they land on the island, Malcolm and everyone goes on a jeep ride to the visitor's center. On the way, they pass by a herd of dinosaurs and are amazed by their appearances.
At the visitor's center, Hammond shows them a video on how the dinosaurs came back through extracting mosquitoes through fossilized tree sap (amber), taking the blood they sucked on from other dinosaurs, and cloning them with a little help from frog DNA to fill in their gaps.