Biography:Gregory Benford

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Gregory Benford
Born (1941-01-30) January 30, 1941 (age 83)
Mobile, Alabama
OccupationScientist, Writer
NationalityUnited States
GenreScience fiction
Notable worksGalactic Center Saga novels

Gregory Benford (born January 30, 1941) is an American science fiction author and astrophysicist who is on the faculty of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of California, Irvine. He is also a contributing editor of Reason magazine.[1]

As a science fiction author, Benford is perhaps best known for the Galactic Center Saga novels, beginning with In the Ocean of Night (1977).[2] This series postulates a galaxy in which sentient organic life is in constant warfare with sentient electromechanical life.

In 1969[3] he wrote "The Scarred Man",[4] the first story about a computer virus,[5] published in 1970.


Benford was born in Mobile, Alabama and grew up in Robertsdale and Fairhope.[6] Graduating Phi Beta Kappa, he received a Bachelor of Science in physics in 1963 from the University of Oklahoma in Norman, Oklahoma, followed by a Master of Science from the University of California, San Diego in 1965, and a doctorate there in 1967. That same year he married Joan Abbe. They are the parents of two children.[7] Benford modeled characters in several of his novels after his wife, most prominently the heroine of Artifact. She died in 2002.[8]

Benford has an identical twin brother, Jim Benford, with whom he has collaborated on science fiction stories.[9] Both got their start in science fiction fandom, with Gregory being a co-editor of the science fiction fanzine Void. Benford has said he is an atheist.[10]

He has been a long-time resident of Laguna Beach, California.[7]

Writing career

Gregory Benford's first professional sale was the story "Stand-In" in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (June 1965), which won second prize in a contest to write a short story based on a poem by Doris Pitkin Buck. In 1969, he began writing a regular science column for Amazing Stories.

Benford tends to write hard science fiction which incorporates the research he is doing as a practical scientist. He has worked on several collaborations with authors including William Rotsler, David Brin and Gordon Eklund. His time-travel novel Timescape (1980) won both the Nebula Award and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. A scientific procedural, the novel eventually loaned its title to a line of science fiction published by Pocket Books. In the late 1990s, he wrote Foundation's Fear, one of an authorized sequel trilogy to Isaac Asimov's Foundation series. Other novels published in that period include several near-future science thrillers: Cosm (1998), The Martian Race (1999) and Eater (2000).

Benford has also served as an editor of numerous alternate history anthologies as well as collections of Hugo Award winners.

He has been nominated for four Hugo Awards (for two short stories and two novellas) and 12 Nebula Awards (in all categories). In addition to Timescape, he won the Nebula for the novelette "If the Stars Are Gods" (with Eklund). In 1995 he was honored with the Lord Prize, and in 2005 the MIT SF Society awarded him the Asimov Prize.[citation needed]

Benford was a guest of honour at Aussiecon Three, the 1999 Worldcon. He remains a regular contributor to science fiction fanzines, such as Apparatchik.

In 2016 Benford was the recipient of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society Forry Award Lifetime Achievement Award in the Field of Science Fiction.[11]

Contributions to science and speculative science

Gregory Benford, 2008

Gregory Benford is a Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Irvine, where he was a Professor of Physics.

He is a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, a Fellow of the American Physical Society and was Visiting Fellow at Cambridge University and the Universities of Turin and Bologna. In 1995 he received the Lord Prize for contributions to science. With more than 200 scientific publications, his research encompasses both theory and experiments in the fields of astrophysics and plasma physics. His research has been supported by NSF, NASA, AFOSR, DOE and other agencies. He is an ongoing advisor to NASA, DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and the CIA.

Benford's work in physics at the University of California, Irvine has focused on theoretical and experimental plasma physics, including studies of extremely strong turbulence, particularly in astrophysical contexts, and studies of magnetic structures from the galactic center to large-scale galactic jets. Working in collaboration with, among others, science fiction writers Cramer, Forward, and Landis, Benford worked on a theoretical study of the physics of wormholes, which pointed out that wormholes, if formed in the early universe, could still exist in the present day if they were wrapped in a negative-mass cosmic string.[12] Such wormholes could potentially be detected by gravitational lensing.

In 2004, Benford proposed that the harmful effects of global warming could be reduced by the construction of a rotating Fresnel lens 1,000 kilometres across, floating in space at the Lagrangian point L1. According to Benford, this lens would diffuse the light from the Sun and reduce the solar energy reaching the Earth by approximately 0.5% to 1%. He estimated that this would cost around US$10 billion. His plan has been commented on in a variety of forums.[13] A similar space sunshade was proposed in 1989 by J. T. Early,[14] and again in 1997 by Edward Teller, Lowell Wood, and Roderick Hyde.[15] In 2006, Benford pointed out one possible danger in this approach: if this lens were built and global warming were avoided, there would be less incentive to reduce greenhouse gases, and humans might continue to produce too much carbon dioxide until it caused some other environmental catastrophe, such as a chemical change in ocean water that could be disastrous to ocean life.[16]

Benford serves on the board of directors and the steering committee of the Mars Society.

He has also advocated human cryopreservation, for example by signing an open letter to support research into cryonics,[17] being a member of Alcor,[18] and by being an advisor to a UK cryonics and cryopreservation advocacy group.[19]

Gregory Benford became Emeritus from the University of California, Irvine, in 2006 in order to found and develop Genescient. Genescient is a new generation biotechnology company that combines evolutionary genomics with massive selective screening to analyze and exploit the genetics of model animal and human whole genomes. This enables Genescient to develop novel therapeutics that target the chronic diseases of aging.

Benford's law of controversy

Benford's law of controversy is an adage from the 1980 novel Timescape,[20] stating:

Passion is inversely proportional to the amount of real information available.[21][22]

The adage was quoted in an international drug policy article in a peer-reviewed social science journal.[23]

Selected bibliography

Galactic Center Saga

  • In the Ocean of Night (1977)
  • Across the Sea of Suns (1984)
  • Great Sky River (1987)
  • Tides of Light (1989)
  • Furious Gulf (1994)
  • Sailing Bright Eternity (1996)
  • "A Hunger for the Infinite" a novella published in the anthology Far Horizons (1999)


  1. Who's Getting Your Vote?, Reason
  2. Witcover, Paul (2000-03-20). "Mean, stupid, ugly, and the terror of all other species". Sci Fi Weekly. 
  3. Benford, Gregory (2000). Worlds Vast and Various. New York: EOS. ISBN 9780380790548. OCLC 44128776. , cited at "The Scarred Man Returns". 
  4. Benford, Gregory (May 1970). "The Scarred Man". Venture Science Fiction: 122–132. , cited at "The Scarred Man by Greg Benford".  Republished on author's website at .
  5. Easton, Thomas; Dial, Judith, eds (July 8, 2010). Visions of Tomorrow: Science Fiction Predictions that Came True. Skyhorse Publishing. ISBN 978-1-60239-998-3. 
  6. Down the River Road — the Introduction | GREGORY BENFORD Retrieved 2011-11-16.
  7. 7.0 7.1 McLellan, Dennis (August 28, 1994). "The Science of Fiction : UCI Astrophysicist Gregory Benford Puts Reality Into His Novels". Los Angeles Times (Irvine). Retrieved 13 December 2015. 
  8. "Other Obituaries," Locus, May 2002, p.70
  9. "ISFDB – James Bedford"
  10. "Evil and Me", Benford; in 50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists
  11. Publications, Locus. "Locus Online News » Benford Wins Forry Award". 
  12. Cramer, J. G.; Forward, R. W.; Morris, M. S.; Visser, M.; Benford, G.; Landis, G. A. (1995). "Natural Wormholes as Gravitational Lenses". Physical Review D 51: 3117–3120. doi:10.1103/PhysRevD.51.3117. Bibcode1995PhRvD..51.3117C.  The press release on the paper can be found on Landis' website.
  13. See Russell Dovey, "Supervillainy: Astroengineering Global Warming and Bill Christensen, "Reduce Global Warming by Blocking Sunlight" . Also see Screening out sunlight in the Wikipedia article Mitigation of global warming.
  14. See footnote 23 in E. Teller, L. Wood, and R. Hyde, "Global Warming and Ice Ages: Prospects for Physics-Based Modulation of Global Change" .
  15. E. Teller, L. Wood, and R. Hyde, "Global Warming and Ice Ages: Prospects for Physics-Based Modulation of Global Change" .
  16. Comments at the 64th World Science Fiction Convention, August 2006.
  17. "Scientists Open Letter on Cryonics". Retrieved 2016-02-02. 
  18. "Alcor Member Profile: Gregory Benford". Retrieved 2016-02-02. 
  19. "UK Cryonics and Cryopreservation Research Network". Retrieved 2016-02-02. 
  20. Benford, Gregory (1992-08-01) [1980]. Timescape. Bantam Books. p. 182. ISBN 978-0-553-29709-6. 
  21. "EFF Quotes Collection 19.6". Electronic Frontier Foundation. 2001-04-09. Archived from the original on 2012-10-28. 
  22. "Quotations: Computer Laws". SysProg. Archived from the original on 2008-08-22. Retrieved 2007-03-10. 
  23. MacCoun, Robert J. (2001). "American distortion of Dutch drug statistics". Society 38: 23–26. doi:10.1007/BF02686215. ; official archival copy requires site registration. The article is a followup to pieces the author already published in Science (1997) and the Annual Review of Psychology (1998)

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