Ronald Numbers

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Ronald Numbers
Ronald Numbers, HSS 2008.jpg
Ronald Numbers at the 2008 History of Science Society conference
BornJune 3, 1942
EducationUniversity of California, Berkeley
AwardsGeorge Sarton Medal
Scientific career
FieldsHistory of science
InstitutionsUniversity of Wisconsin–Madison
WebsiteAcademic homepage

Ronald Leslie Numbers (born 1942) is an American historian of science. He was awarded the 2008 George Sarton Medal by the History of Science Society for "a lifetime of exceptional scholarly achievement by a distinguished scholar".[1]


Numbers is the son of a fundamentalist Seventh-day Adventist preacher, and was raised in the Seventh-day Adventist religion and schools well into college.[1] Regarding religious beliefs, he describes himself as agnostic, and has written, "I no longer believe in creationism of any kind".[2] He became a leading scholar in the history of science and religion and an authority on the history of creationism and creation science.

Numbers received his Ph.D. in history of science from University of California, Berkeley in 1969.[3] Currently he is Hilldale and William Coleman Professor of the History of Science and Medicine at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. From 1989 to 1993 he was editor of Isis, an international journal of the history of science. With David Lindberg, he has co-edited two anthologies on the relationship between religion and science. Also with Lindberg, he is currently editing the eight-volume Cambridge History of Science.


Prophetess of Health[edit]

In 1976, while still a lecturer at Loma Linda University, he published the book Prophetess of Health. The book is about the relationship between Seventh-day Adventist Church co-founder and prophetess Ellen G. White and popular ideas about health that were fashionable in certain circles in America just prior to the time during which she wrote her books.[4]

The Creationists[edit]

In 1992, he published The Creationists: The Evolution of Scientific Creationism, a history of the origins of anti-evolutionism. It was revised and expanded in 2006, with the subtitle changed to From Scientific Creationism to Intelligent Design. The book has been described as "probably the most definitive history of anti-evolutionism".[5] It has received generally favorable reviews from both the academic and the religious community.[6] Former archbishop of York John Habgood described it, in an article in The Times, as a "massively well-documented history" that "must surely be the definitive study of the rise and growth of" creationism.[7]

Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths About Science and Religion[edit]

In 2009, he was editor for Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths About Science and Religion, where the book focuses on popular misconceptions that are connected between science and religion.[8][9][10]

Among other things the work seeks to debunk various claims, such as that the medieval Christian Church suppressed science, that medieval Islamic culture was inhospitable to science, that the Church issued a universal ban on human dissection in the Middle Ages, that Galileo Galilei was imprisoned and tortured for advocating Copernicanism, or that the idea of creationism is a uniquely American phenomenon.


  • The Warfare Between Science and Religion: The Idea That Wouldn't Die, (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2018) (ed. with Jeff Hardin, Ronald A. Binzley). ISBN 978-1421426181
  • Science and Religion Around the World, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011) (ed. with John Hedley Brooke). ISBN 978-0-195-32819-6
  • "Wrestling with Nature: From Omens to Science", (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011) (ed.with Peter Harrison and Michael H. Shank). ISBN 9780226317816
  • Galileo Goes to Jail, and Other Myths About Science and Religion (ed.) (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2009). ISBN 0-674-03327-2
  • Prophetess of Health: A Study of Ellen G. White, 3rd Ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 2008).
  • Science and Christianity in Pulpit and Pew, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007).
  • The Creationists: From Scientific Creationism to Intelligent Design, (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2006),
    - expanded version of The Creationists, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1992. Reprinted by University of California Press, 1993.) ISBN 978-0-674-02339-0
  • When Science and Christianity Meet, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003). ed. with David C. Lindberg
  • Disseminating Darwinism: The Role of Place, Race, Religion, and Gender, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), ed. with John Stenhouse.
  • Darwinism Comes to America. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1998).
  • God and Nature: Historical Essays on the Encounter Between Christianity and Science, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986) ed. with David C. Lindberg. ISBN 978-0-520-05538-4


  1. ^ a b History of Science Society. "2008 Award Winners". Archived from the original on 2009-07-07. Retrieved 2008-11-26.
  2. ^ See introduction to Ronald Number's book (page xvi): The Creationists. See also Prophetess of Health Reappears, an interview of Numbers by Alita Byrd of Spectrum. And Inside the Mind of a Creationist: Ron Numbers & Paul Nelson in discussion Archived 2010-10-10 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Numbers, Ronald Leslie (1969). The nebular hypothesis in American thought (Ph.D.). University of California, Berkeley.
  4. ^ Critiques and reviews include "A Critique of the Book Prophetess of Health" by the official church Ellen G. White Estate; Glenn Vandervliet. Isis 69:1 (March 1978), p146–47. JSTOR link. See also the reviews in Spectrum 8:2 (January 1977)
  5. ^ Steve Paulson, "Seeing the light -- of science", Interview with Ronald Numbers,, Jan. 2, 2007.
  6. ^ See references in "notable reviews".
  7. ^ The creation of Creationism, John Habgood, The Times, July 23, 2008
  8. ^ "Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths About Science and Religion — Ronald L. Numbers - Harvard University Press".
  9. ^ Dixon, Thomas (2010). "Galileo goes to jail and other myths about science and religion. Edited by Ronald L. Numbers. Pp. xiii+302. Cambridge, Ma.–London: Harvard University Press, 2009. £20.95. 978 0 674 03327 6". The Journal of Ecclesiastical History. 61 (4): 789–790. doi:10.1017/S0022046910001703. S2CID 162849038.
  10. ^ Numbers, Ronald L. "Book Reviews - Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths About Science and Religion". doi:10.1086/659668. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)

External links[edit]