Ronald E. Doel

Associate Professor (Department of History)

Bellamy 438
Personal Website


Ronald E. Doel (Ph.D. Princeton 1990) teaches the history of recent science.
He is currently working on several projects on science in twentieth century America. A new book-in-progress explores the rise of the physical environmental sciences, including the influence of U.S. military patronage in shaping earth sciences research during the Cold War. He is also writing a related book-length study on the integration of scientists into U.S. foreign policy during the twentieth century, and has published numerous articles on this theme in such journals as Osiris, Intelligence and National Security, and Centaurus.

Doel's research also involves historical methodology. With Pamela M. Henson (Smithsonian Institution) he is writing a new book on historical photographs as evidence in writing the history of nineteenth and twentieth century science, which simultaneously explores how photographs shaped popular impressions of science in America. His writings span the fields of history of science, environmental history, oral history, and historical geography.

Ron Doel is also actively involved in Arctic and polar research, including interdisciplinary and internationally comparative research activities. Recently Doel was Project Leader of Colony, Empire, Environment: A Comparative International History of Twentieth Century Arctic Science,” a 1.3 million dollar project within the BOREAS initiative of the European Science Foundation. Nine historians from seven nations are working in this innovative research effort, the only team (among seven teams funded) composed entirely of historians. He also served from 2002 to 2008 as chair of the History Committee of the American Geophysical Union, the largest professional body of earth scientists.

His long-range writing plans include a biography of the earth scientist and technocrat M. King Hubbert, whose 1956 prediction of peak oil production in the continental U.S. (Hubbert’s peak) produced a firestorm of controversy that continues to this day. Recently he contributed a major biographical entry on Hubbert to the New Dictionary of Scientific Biography (Scribners, 2007) and is part of Exploring Greenland: Science and Technology in Cold War Settings at Aarhus University


Ph.D., 1990, Princeton University

Research Interests

History of recent science, environmental history, International relations, circumpolar Arctic

Additional Affiliations

Spring 2020: Erskine Fellow, Antarctic Gateway | School of Earth and Environment, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand
Rachel Carson Center Fellow, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich, Germany

Selected Publications

Solar System Astronomy in America: Communities, Patronage, and Interdisciplinary Research, 1920-1960 (Cambridge University Press, 1996; paperback 2009) explores the extraordinary challenges faced by planetary scientists in pursuing broadly conceived studies of the moon, planets, and minor bodies of the solar system in the decades before NASA. An in-depth investigation of the practice of interdisciplinary research, it provides insight into the transformation of American science during the mid-20th century.

The Historiography of Contemporary Science, Technology, and Medicine: Writing Recent Science (Routledge, 2006, co-edited with Thomas Söderqvist, hardback and paperback) surveys the conceptual and methodological frontiers in writing about science since World War II. Using case studies from around the globe, with original contributions from leading historians, this book underscores the importance of recent history for current debates over scientific ethics and national policies.