Both novelist and playwright, he was never influenced by the American literary currents of the time. His works, mainly concerned with people rather than ideas, are the product of a dreamer and a realist at the same time. In his plays he experimented with new stylized techniques, eventually winning the Pulitzer Prize to his sensibility and art.
Thornton Wilder was born in Madison, Wisconsin, in 1897. When he was nine years the family (Thornton had an elder brother and three sisters) moved to Hong Kong where his father had has been appointed Counsel - General.
After six months his mother returned with the children to the United States, but the family rejoined again in 1911 in Shanghai, where his father had been transferred. Wilder stayed in China for a year. He subsequently studied in California and graduated from Yale in 1920. In the following year he studied Archaeology at the American Academy in Rome. In 1925 he took an M.A degree at Princeton University. From 1930 to 1936 he taught literature and writing at the University of Chicago and was professor of poetry at Harvard in 1950-51. During World War II he served in the US Army Air Intelligence Service in North Africa and Italy, leaving in 1945 with the rank of Colonel (he had already served in the coast artillery during World War II). He then returned to America, left his academic career and devoted the rest of his life to literature. He died in 1975.