An American science fiction writer and food engineer, he is best known for his Lensman and Skylark series. He is widely regarded as the founder of the "space opera" science fiction sub-genre.
He worked as a junior chemist for the National Bureau of Standards in Washington, D.C. As a food engineer, he concentrated on the creation of pastry and doughnut mixes.
He graduated from the University of Idaho in 1914.
He was born to devout Presbyterian parents in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. He married Jeanne Craig MacDougall in 1915.
He influenced the work of George Lucas.