Richard Olson ’62
Professor of History Emeritus
My research and teaching focus on the history of science, with a special emphasis on the interactions between the natural sciences and other cultural domains, including those of religion, political ideology, and issues of gender and ethnicity. I am currently working on a book entitled Academic Scientism in the Twentieth Century which surveys the colonization of virtually all academic fields by scientific methods and attitudes.
My most recent books include Scientism and Technocracy in the Twentieth Century (Lexington, 2014) which considers the broad impact of Scientific Management across cultures; Science and Scientism in Nineteenth Century Europe (University of Illinois Press, 2008); which explores the natural scientific foundations underlying liberalism, socialism, positivism, communism, and social Darwinism; and Science and Religion, 1450 – 1900: From Copernicus to Darwin (Greenwood Press, 2004; Chinese edition, Shandong People’s Press, 2008), which examines the complex, often mutually supportive, interactions between scientific and religious developments in the modern Christian West. This volume is part of a ten-volume series, Greenwood Guides to Science and Religion, for which I am the general editor.
A Harvey Mudd alumnus, I served as chair of the steering committee for the Hixon Forum for Responsive Science and Engineering, which promotes the exploration of the interactions among science, engineering, and the society in which it is embedded as well as the development of science and technology intended to serve the common good.
I was also on the steering committee of the Claremont 5 college Program in Science, Technology, and Society. I served as the Hennebach Distinguished Vising Professor in Humanities at the Colorado School of Mines in 2002-2003. Before returning to HMC on the faculty in 1976, I was associate professor and chair of the History Board of Studies at The University of California at Santa Cruz.