Roger Bartlett Swain was born on February 5, 1949, to C. Gardner Swain and Marguerite (nee Stay) Swain in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He attended Harvard University, receiving his B.A. in 1971, his M.A. in 1972, and his Ph.D. in 1977. In 1978, he joined the staff of Horticulture magazine, where he serves as science editor. He married professor Elizabeth Ward in 1979, and they presently live in Newton Highlands, in a rural area from which they can see housing developments spreading out slowly in their direction. Swain has become an important figure in efforts to preserve natural areas in his region. He is perhaps best known as a regular on the PBS series The Victory Garden.