Robert N. Proctor

Professor of the History of Science
History Department, Building 200
Stanford University
Stanford, CA 94305-2024
Tel (650) 723-2651
Fax (650) 725-0597

rproctor at

Curriculum Vitae


Current Research

Professor Proctor specializes in 20th century science, technology, and medicine, especially the history of controversy in those fields and projects on scientific rhetoric, the cultural production of ignorance (agnotology), and the history of expert witnessing. He is presently working on a book titled "Darwin in the History of Life", framed around the idea that the 19th century evolution revolution can be seen as a consequence of efforts to historicize life. He is also finishing a book on the history of the lapidary art and mineralogic politics, exploring racial resonances in gemstone aesthetics, amateur vs. professional taxonomies, figured stones as inadvertent Rorschach tests, the historicity of gemstone hierarchies, and some of the enigmatic questions of agate formation. He also does work on human origins--including changing notions of the oldest tools, art and fire; changing body imagery, the history of molecular anthropology, visual rhetoric in phyletic diagrams, changing archaeological techniques and images of "humaness," etc. the history of global creationism and of Evo Devo, catastrophic geology, global climate change and environmental policy.


Ph.D. Harvard University, Department of History of Science, 1984
M.S. Harvard University, Department of History of Science, 1977
B.S. Indiana University (Bloomington), Department of Biology, 1976

Selected publications

"Three Roots of Human Recency: Molecular Anthropology, The Refigured Acheulean, and the UNESCO Response to Auschwitz," Current Anthropology (2003), winner of the 2004/2005 Award for Exemplary Interdisciplinary Anthropological Research from the American Anthropological Association.

Racial Hygiene: Medicine Under the Nazis (Harvard University, 1988; now in 6th printing).

Value-Free Science? Purity and Power in Modern Knowledge (Harvard University Press, 1991). An effort to historicize the ideals of objectivity and Wertfreiheit.

Cancer Wars: How Politics Shapes What We Know and Don't Know About Cancer (Basic Books, 1995). Inspired a four-part PBS/Channel 4 television documentary; translated into Japanese (2001) and parts into German.

The Nazi War on Cancer (Princeton University Press, 1999). Winner of 1999 Viseltear Award. Translated into: Italian, Turkish, Polish, Japanese, German, and French.

Anti-Agate: The Great Diamond Hoax and the Semiprecious Stone Scame, Configurations, 9 (2001): 381-412 (also online).

Tobacco and the Global Lung Cancer Epidemic, Nature Reviews Cancer, 1 (2001): 82-86.

"The Nazi War on Tobacco: Ideology, Evidence, and Public Health Consequences," Bulletin of the History of Medicine (1997).

Prizes and Fellowships

  • Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2002-
  • Visiting scholar, Hamburger Institut für Sozialforschung, Hamburg, Germany, 1995
  • Senior Scholar in Residence, U.S. Holocaust Research Institute, Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C., 1994
  • Visiting Fellow, Shelby Collum Davis Center for Historical Studies, Princeton, 1992-1993
  • research grant, National Center for Human Genome Research, National Institutes of Health, 1992-1993
  • Penn State Distinguished Scholar Medal Recipient, 1997.

Online Articles and Interviews


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