Early life and family
Pohl was the son of Frederik (originally Friedrich) George Pohl (a salesman of Germanic descent) and Anna Jane Mason. Pohl Sr. held various jobs, and the Pohls lived in such wide-flung locations as Texas, California, New Mexico, and the Panama Canal Zone. The family settled in Brooklyn when Pohl was around seven.
He attended Brooklyn Technical High School, and dropped out at 17. In 2009, he was awarded an honorary diploma from Brooklyn Tech.
While a teenager, he co-founded the New York–based Futurians fan group, and began lifelong friendships with Donald Wollheim, Isaac Asimov, and others who would become important writers and editors. Pohl later said that other "friends came and went and were gone, [but] many of the ones I met through fandom were friends all their lives – Isaac, Damon Knight, Cyril Kornbluth, Dirk Wylie, [and] Dick Wilson. In fact, there are one or two –
Jack Robins, Dave Kyle – whom I still count as friends, seventy-odd years later...." He published a science-fiction fanzine called Mind of Man.
During 1936, Pohl joined the Young Communist League because of its positions for unions and against racial prejudice, Adolf Hitler, and Benito Mussolini. He became president of the local Flatbush III Branch of the YCL in Brooklyn. Pohl has said that after the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact of 1939, the party line changed and he could no longer support it, at which point he left.
Pohl served in the United States Army from April 1943 until November 1945, rising to sergeant as an air corps weatherman. After training in Illinois, Oklahoma, and Colorado, he was mainly stationed in Italy with the 456th Bombardment Group.
Pohl was married five times. His first wife, Leslie Perri, was another Futurian; they were married in August 1940, and divorced in 1944. He then married Dorothy LesTina in Paris in August 1945 while both were serving in the military in Europe; the marriage ended in 1947. During 1948, he married Judith Merril; they had a daughter, Ann. Pohl and Merril divorced in 1952. In 1953, he married Carol M. Ulf Stanton, with whom he had three children and collaborated on several books; they separated in 1977 and were divorced in 1983. From 1984 until his death, Pohl was married to science-fiction expert and academic Elizabeth Anne Hull.
He fathered four children – Ann (m. Walter Weary), Frederik III (deceased), Frederik IV and Kathy. Grandchildren include Canadian writer Emily Pohl-Weary and chef Tobias Pohl-Weary.
From 1984 on, he lived in Palatine, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. He was previously a longtime resident of Middletown, New Jersey.