Reed Richards was born in Central City, California to Evelyn and Nathaniel Richards. Reed, like his father, was a scientific prodigy, taking college-level courses by the time he was 14. He attended many prestigious universities and technical institutes, but it was at Empire State University that he would meet two people who would have a profound and lasting impact on his life – Ben Grimm and Victor von Doom. Ben would become his best friend and von Doom would become his nemesis.
During summer semester breaks from ESU, Reed rented a room from the aunt of Susan Storm, whom Reed quickly fell in love with and began dating. Over time, Reed developed mastery of mechanical, aerospace and electrical engineering, chemistry, all levels of physics, and human, as well as alien, biology.
His dream was to build a spacecraft and travel to the distant stars, and more immediately, to beat any communist countries into space. With his inheritance and government funding, Reed built the ship. But before he was completely ready to take it out, the government threatened to cancel the project.
Knowing he must act quickly, he gathered Ben, Sue, and Sue’s younger brother, Johnny, to tell them of the urgency and immediacy of his gambit. Sue and Johnny were ready to go, but Ben became angry, knowing Reed was not well versed enough on the effects of the cosmic rays they might encounter while in space, nor had he had enough time to equip the ship to shield the crew from them.
Nonetheless, he eventually relented and the four blasted off. No sooner were they in space, however, than they were bombarded by the rays and forced to head back to Earth, crash landing in a remote clearing because Ben, the pilot, had become incapacitated by the effects of the radiation.
They immediately discovered they each had new powers. Reed’s body became as malleable as rubber, morphing and stretching unrestrained out of all normal proportion. Once they had gotten over the shock of discovering their new abilities, Reed told them they must use their powers for the betterment of humanity. The other three agreed and they became The Fantastic Four. Each of them chose a superhero code name, with Reed electing to become Mr. Fantastic.
As leader of the group, he often employed them in undertaking his scientific experiments which sometimes involved needing Ben to lift equipment so heavy that the most powerful hydraulic lifts couldn’t manage it, or just as crew to pilot an experimental ship into some alternate universe and explore it. As a master in all areas of science, Reed constantly created new and exciting devices and vehicles for use in further scientific exploration. They discovered other worlds, traveled through time, and battled aliens from distant galaxies. They saved the world time after time, and in the process, became the most celebrated adventurers on Earth.
Reed and Sue got married and had children. He competed with Namor, the Sub-Mariner, prince of the underwater city of Atlantis, for Sue’s affections. And Victor von Doom, Reed’s classmate from ESU, became the powerful Dr. Doom, with whom the four would have their most epic battles. They battled the planet devouring being called Galactus and his herald, a shining being on a flying surf board named the Silver Surfer. They traveled to the Negative Zone and fought Annihilus.
Using the money from the many valuable patents and royalties for his inventions, Reed bought the Baxter Building, a skyscraper in Manhattan, the top floors of which were occupied by Reed’s many labs as well as the groups’ living quarters. He also used these resources to fund his many scientific breakthroughs in numerous fields including time-, space-, and dimensional-travel, as well as in virtually every branch of science and engineering.
Reed is generally believed to be the most intelligent man on the planet, by a good margin, and he has always viewed his greatest power to come not from his stretching ability, but from his massive intellect.