James D. Stein was born in New York City in 1941. His father managed commercial real estate and his mother taught French and drama at New York high schools. When he was five, his parents moved to Westchester. Seven years later they moved to the North Shore of Chicago, where they spent their remaining years.
His parents were a major force in his life. From his father, he acquired an interest in playing both sports and the piano, and he still plays tennis several times a week. Both his parents were avid readers; his father generally read both fiction and non-fiction, while his mother passed on her love of mystery stories and science fiction to her son. Both parents were college graduates and stressed the importance of education.
He attended New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois, where he was extremely interested in sports – and also extremely short. He kept the statistics for the school football and baseball teams, wrote a column on New Trier’s football fortunes for the Winnetka Talk – and worried his parents because of his short stature. As a result, he became one of the early beneficiaries of growth hormone treatments, eventually reaching a height of 5’9”.
High school stimulated his interest in mathematics and science, and he majored in math and minored in physics at Yale University, afterwards receiving a doctorate in mathematics from the University of California at Berkeley. His thesis advisor was particularly tolerant of Stein’s somewhat idiosyncratic behavior. Stein would disappear for months at a time to play tournament bridge, where he won regional and national championships. His roommates in graduate school also engaged in some noteworthy activities; they made local and national news by owning a lion. One of his roommates eventually became the President of the cryogenic firm that froze Ted Williams, the baseball superstar.
After an initial teaching stint at UCLA, he joined the mathematics faculty of California State University at Long Beach, where he is still employed. His wife, Linda, is a former student that he met while serving as the Graduate Advisor in the Mathematics Department.
He is the author of more than thirty research articles in mathematics, and has served on several state and national committees on mathematics education. Several years ago, he started writing books on mathematics and science, including How Math Explains the World, How Math Can Save Your Life, The Right Decision, and Cosmic Numbers: The Numbers That Define Our Universe. Two of these books were offered as selections by the Scientific American Book Club. It was during the writing of How Math Explains the World that he had the idea that led to his writing The Paranormal Equation.
He and his wife live in Redondo Beach, California, where they enjoy attending theater and movies, on the rare occasion that Hollywood makes a movie with a clever plot, intriguing characters, and intelligent dialogue. Last year they traveled to Taiwan, where his wife was born, and they look forward to other trips when he retires.