Richard Powers (born June 18, 1957) is a novelist whose works explore the effects of modern science and technology.
Born in Evanston, Illinois, and interested in multiple sciences as a teenager, Powers enrolled as a physics major at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He switched his studies to literature, receiving his M.A. in that subject in 1979. After graduation, he worked in Boston as a computer programmer until an encounter with a photograph at the Museum of Fine Arts inspired him to quit his job and spend the next two years writing his first novel, Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance, which was published in 1985.
Powers then moved to the Netherlands, where he wrote Prisoner's Dilemma, a work that juxtaposes Disney and nuclear warfare, and then his best-known work to date, The Gold Bug Variations, a story that ties together genetics, music, and computer science.
Operation Wandering Soul, a finalist for the National Book Award in 1993 about a young doctor dealing with the ugly realities of a pediatrics ward, was mostly written during a year's stay at the University of Cambridge, and completed when Powers returned to the University of Illinois in 1992 to take up a post as writer-in-residence.
Galatea 2.2 (1995) is a Pygmalion story, about an AI experiment gone awry.
Gain (1998) is a look at the history of a 150-year-old chemical company, interwoven with a story of a woman living near one of its plants succumbing to ovarian cancer.
Plowing the Dark (2000) is another novel with parallel narratives, this time of a Seattle research team building a groundbreaking virtual reality, while at the same time an American teacher is held hostage in Beirut, with a stunning outcome.
Powers' latest novel is The Time of Our Singing, published in January 2003.
He was a MacArthur Fellow in 1989 and received a Lannan Literary Award in 1999. He teaches in the Creative Writing M.F.A. program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.