Richard Olson Curriculum Vitae


Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts: PhD (History of Science) 1967; A.M. (Physics) 1963;
Harvey Mudd College, Claremont, California: B.S. (Physics) 1962


“Sir John Leslie: 1766-1832, A Study of the Pursuit of the Exact Sciences in the Scottish Enlightenment”

Honors and Awards

  • John Randolph Haynes and Dora Haynes Faculty Fellowship, 1990-1991
  • National Endowment For The Humanities Fellowship, 1986-1987
  • National Science Foundation Summer Research Grant, 1985
  • Lois and Arnold Graves Fellowship, 1978-1979
  • NEH Younger Humanist Fellowship, 1974-1975
  • NSF Graduate Fellowship, 1962-1965
  • Honorary Woodrow Wilson Fellow, 1962

Professional Experience

  • Professor of History and Willard W. Keith Fellow in Humanities, Harvey Mudd College; and Professor of History, Claremont Graduate School, 1976-
  • Hennebach Distinguished Visiting Professor in Humanities, Colorado School of Mines 2002-2003
  • Chairman of the Faculty, Harvey Mudd College, 1998-2001
  • Director, Claremont Colleges Program on Science, Technology, and Society, 1991-1993 and 1994-1995
  • Director, Freshman Division, Harvey Mudd College, 1987-1990
  • Chairman, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Harvey Mudd College, 1982-1985
  • Assistant-Associate Professor of History, University of California at Santa Cruz, 1967-1976
  • Chairman, History Board of Studies, University of California at Santa Cruz, 1972-1976
  • Instructor in History, Tufts University, 1966-1967

Professional Memberships and Activities

  • History of Science Society, Member, 1964– , Committee on Honors & Prizes, 1990–; Chair, COHP, 1993–, Advisory Editor for Isis, 1996–1994
  • West Coast History of Science Society, Member, 1967-, Secretary Treasurer, 1967-69
  • American Historical Association
  • Fulbright Panel for History and Philosophy of Science, 1988-1992
  • Advisory Editor, Skeptic, 1992–
  • Consulting Editor, Facts on File, Encyclopedia of Science, Technology, and Society, 1993–
  • Referee for: NEH, NSF, Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Isis, MIT Press, Cambridge
  • University Press, Oxford University Press, Princeton University Press, University of California Press.



  • Technology and Science in Ancient Civilizations (Westport:Prager, 2009)
  • Science and Scientism in 19th Century Europe (Champaign-Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2008)
  • Science and Religion in the West: 1450-1900: From Copernicus to Darwin(Westport: Greenwood Press, November, 2004) paperback, 2006, from Johns Hopkins University Press.  Chinese translation, Shandong People’s Press, 2008.
  • The Emergence of the Social Sciences, 1642-1792, New York: Twayne Press, 1993.
  • Science Deified and Science Defied: The Historical Significance of Science in Western Culture, Vol. 2: 1620-1820, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1990.
  • Science Deified and Science Defied: The Historical Significance of Science in Western Culture, Vol. 1: From the Bronze Age to 1620, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1982.
  • Scottish Philosophy and British Physics, 1750-1850: Foundations of the Victorian Scientific Style, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975 (Italian translation, Bologna: Societa Editrice il Mulino, 1982).
  • Editor, Science as Metaphor, Belmont: Wadsworth, 1971
  • Editor, The Biographical Encyclopedia of Scientists (5 vols.), New York, London, & Toronto: Marshall Cavendish,1998 (for secondary school audience)
  • Series Editor, Greenwood Guides to Science and Religion (10 vols., 2004-2008).

Articles and Invited Chapters in Books

  • “A Dynamic Model for ‘Science and Religion’: Interacting Subcultures,” Zygon, 46, #4,(2011): 1-19.
  • “Beyond the Conflict Thesis: The Co-Evolution of Science and Religion,” Colorado School of Mines Quarterly, 102, #4 (2002): 1-76.
  • “The Human Sciences”, in Roy Porter, ed., The Eighteenth Century, Volume 4 in The Cambridge History of Science (6 volumes) , general editors, David Lindberg and Ronald Numbers. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2003, pp. 436-462.
  • “The Scientific Revolution Reshapes the World,” The World & I, 14 #4 (April, 1999):18-39.
  • “Sex and status in Scottish Enlightenment social science: John Millar and the sociology of gender roles,” History of the Human Sciences, 11(1998): 73-100.
  • “Physics,” in Science and Religion: A Historical Introduction, ed. Gary Ferngren (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002): 301-313.
  • “Spirits, Witches and Science: Why the Rise of Science Encouraged Belief in the ‘Supernatural’ in 17th Century England,” Skeptic,1 #4 (1992), 34-44.
  • “Historical Reflections on Feminist Critiques of Science: The Scientific Background to Modern Feminism,” History Of Science,28 (1990): 125-147.
  • Introductory essays to six chapters in John Burke, ed., Science and Culture in the Western Tradition, Scottsdale: Gorsuch Scarisbrick, 1987.
  • “On the Nature of God’s Existence, Wisdom, and Power: The Interplay of Organic and Mechanistic Imagery in Anglican Natural Theology, 1640-1740,” pp. 1-48, in Fred Burwick, ed., Approaches to Organic Form, Dordrecht: Reidel, 1986.
  • “Aristophanes and the Anti-Scientific Tradition,” pp. 441-454, in Everett Mendelssohn, ed., Tradition and Transformation in the Sciences, Essays in Honor of I. Bernard Cohen, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984.
  • “Tory-High Church Opposition to Scientism,” pp. 171-204, in John Burke, ed., The Uses of Science in the Age of Newton, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1983.
  • “Science, Scientism, and Anti Science in Hellenic Athens,” History of Science,16 (1978): 179-189.
  • “Scientists Are Losing Their Intellectual Arrogance,” Psychology Today (January 1976): 70ff (German translation in Psychologie Heute, 1978).
  • “Scottish Philosophy and Mathematics,” Journal of the History of Ideas,32, (1971): 29-44.
  • “The Gould Controversy at Dudley Observatory: Public and Professional Values in Conflict,” Annals of Science, 27 (1971): 265-270.
  • “Count Rumford, Sir John Leslie, and the Study of the Nature and Propagation of Heat in the Early 19th Century,” Annals of Science,26 (1970): 274-304.
  • “The Reception of Boscovich’s Ideas in Scotland,” Isis,60 (1969):91-103.
  • “Sir John Leslie and the Laws of Electrical Conduction in Solids,” American Journal of Physics, 37 (1969): 190-194.


  • Sixty + book reviews for Albion, American Historical Review, American Scientist, The Historian, Isis, Journal for the History of Behavioral Sciences, The Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Journal of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, Scripta Mathematica, Victorian Studies.
  • Thirty + articles for Rudi Volti, ed., Encyclopedia of Science, Technology, and Society, Facts on File, 1999; Sal Restivo, ed., The Encyclopedia of STS, Oxford University Press, 2003; Carl Mitcham, ed., Encyclopedia of the Science, Technology, and Ethics, Macmillan, 2005; Wilbur Applebaum, ed., The Encyclopedia of the Scientific Revolution, Garland Press, 2000.”

Recent Courses Taught


  • Introduction to Science, Technology, and Society
  • Science and Technology from an “other” perspective
  • Science and Religion: an introduction to Historical and Sociological Approaches
  • Science and Technology in the Ancient and Medieval Worlds
  • Science and Technology in the Early Modern World
  • Science and Technology in the Modern World
  • Science and American Cultures
  • Science and Politics in the United States


  • Science and European Culture in the Nineteenth Century
  • The Enlightenment
  • The Origins of the Social Sciences
  • Science, Politics, and Religion in Seventeenth Century England