Richard Preston studied at Pomona College in Claremont, California and graduated summa cum laude in English. Then Preston studied at Princeton University, where he received his Doctor of Philosophy in 1983. During his studies he participated in the course, The Literature of Fact, which was held by the American writer John McPhee. This course is about writing books nichtfiktiver paved Prestons way to his later career writer.
For his first book First Light in 1988, he received the American Institute of Physics Science Writing Award to. The asteroid Preston is named after him.
Richard Preston is married and has three children. His younger brother Douglas is also a writer.