William Kauffman comes from a respectable New England family. His grandmother, who was born a Van Den Straaten, claims that her own grandparents came over on the Mayflower. His father was a professor of science at Harvard. His mother died while giving birth to William, who is 3 months premature. He grows up a sickly child.
While still in his teens, Kauffman serves as a medic in Vietnam. There he is injured and sent home having been awarded a Purple Heart. After attending Harvard, Kauffman begins research in quantum physics, which at this time is a newly developing field of knowledge. Kauffman marries twice and has two sons, one by each wife. He is a good father when he has time to see his sons, but his involvement in his work relegates family life to a distant second place.
After completing "Superstring" theory, he wins the Nobel Prize for science. He sits on many committees and on the Boards of some of the most powerful American companies (particularly a merchant bank and a Life Sciences group). After publishing a paper on the existence of an infinite number of parallel worlds, however, he is not taken seriously. The military approaches Kauffman and propose to fund his ideas and introduce him to Anthony Xue.
Xue and Kauffman don't get along but they need each other to complete their research. The first successful test of the "Sidestep" project goes wrong and generates a black hole. Kauffman isn't sure of precisely which element has malfunctioned and wants only to fix the problem so he can continue to further develop his theories.