Richard Preston Biography
Richard Preston is the author of seven books, including The Hot Zone,
The Cobra Event, The Demon in the Freezer and Wild Trees;
and is a regular contributor to The New Yorker. His books have been
translated into more than 30 languages, and he's won numerous awards, including
the American Institute of Physics Award and the National Magazine Award.
He lives outside New York City with his wife and children.
He was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on August 5, 1954, and grew up in
Wellesley, a suburb of Boston. One of three children (his brother is author
Douglas Preston) he was a shy child and small for his age, and had difficulty
learning to read. In fourth grade he discovered books and began reading
everything he could get his hands on; but, even today, he says that he struggles
putting simple letters together to make words.
He attended Wellesley High School, where he had mediocre grades and a bad
disciplinary record, and was rejected by every college he applied to. One
of the colleges that rejected him was Pomona College in southern California.
He called the dean of admissions and asked if the college ever changed their
mind, to which the answer was no. Preston started to call the dean once a
week. Even though he called collect every time, the dean kept accepting
his calls and eventually he was put on the waiting list and was admitted to
college mid-year. He graduated summa cum laude.
From Pomona he went to Princeton University where he met his wife, Michelle, and
got a Ph.D in English, writing his dissertation on nineteenth-century American
narrative nonfiction writing.
His first book, First Light (a nonfiction book about astronomy) was
published in 1987. He then wrote American Steel. In 1992 he
became interested in the Ebola virus which led to an article in the New Yorker
and the book, The Hot Zone. The Cobra Event (novel) followed, which
describes a fictional bioterror event in New York City. In 2002 he
published The Demon in The Freezer, a nonfiction book about bioterrorism
and the smallpox virus.
In 2003 he published a children's book, The Boat of Dreams: A Christmas Story,
about two children who meet a very odd Santa Claus in a flying lobster boat.
Then he got hooked on climbing trees, resulting in Wild Trees (2007).
Panic in Level 4: Cannibals, Killer Viruses, and Other Journeys to the Edge of Science was published in 2008.
This biography was last updated on 08/07/2011.
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