Richard Preston wrote The Hot Zone, a classic look at the Ebola virus and the scientists who fight it. His wide-ranging curiosity about science and people has led him to cover a dizzying list of topics, with a lapidary attention to detail and an ear for the human voice.

Why you should listen

Richard Preston is one of the only humans to have climbed Hyperion, a nearly 380-foot redwood tree that is the tallest living thing on Earth. Hyperion was discovered by explorer Michael Taylor while Preston was writing his latest full-length book, The Wild Trees. 

His earlier book The Hot Zone sold millions of copies, spawned a movie, and made the Ebola virus horrifyingly familiar. The book is part of his Dark Biology trilogy, which includes the novel The Cobra Event and The Demon in the Freezer, a look at the bioterror implications of smallpox. He is a regular contributor to The New Yorker. His latest book, Panic in Level Four, is a collection of reportage on a wonderful range of topics, from mathematical geniuses to trees to one of the most shocking medical conditions you can imagine. (This is the book that was passed around the TED offices with the note, "Don't read the final chapter while eating.")

What others say

“Richard Preston ... is a science writer with an uncommon gift for turning complex biology into riveting page-turners.” — Grace Lichtenstein, The Washington Post

Richard Preston’s TED talk

More news and ideas from Richard Preston


Need to know: The ebola pandemic

August 8, 2014

In Africa, ebola has already killed hundreds and sickened more than a thousand people so far this year -- and the pandemic continues to spread into new countries. When did the current outbreak begin? Why can't it be stopped? How much should you freak out? 3 ideas behind the week's headlines.

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Climbing the world’s biggest trees: Richard Preston on

December 2, 2008

Science writer Richard Preston (he wrote The Hot Zone) talks about some of the most enormous living beings on the planet, the giant trees of the US Pacific Northwest. Growing from a tiny seed, they support vast ecosystems — and are still, largely, a mystery. (Recorded February 2008 in Monterey, California. Duration: 19:31.)   Watch […]

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TED2008: What's Out There?

February 29, 2008

(Unedited running notes from the TED2008 conference in Monterey, California. Session eight.) "What’s out there?" is the question of this session. First to try to give an answer is particle physicist Brian Cox, from the University of Manchester. He also work on the CERN‘s LHC ATLAS, part of one of the most ambitious scientific experiments […]

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