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Robert N. Proctor

Robert N. Proctor

American historian
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro American historian
Countries United States of America
Occupations Historian
A.K.A. Robert Neel Proctor
Gender male
Birth June 25, 1954 (Corpus Christi)
Education Harvard University, Indiana University
Robert N. Proctor
The details
Robert N. Proctor
Robert N. Proctor at the 2009 meeting of the History of Science Society.

Robert Neel Proctor (born 1954) is an American historian of science and Professor of the History of Science at Stanford University. While a professor of the history of science at Pennsylvania State University in 1999, he became the first historian to testify against the tobacco industry.


Robert N. Proctor graduated from Indiana University Bloomington in 1976 with a Bachelor of Science in biology. He then took up studies at Harvard University, earning master's and doctoral degrees in History of Science in 1977 and 1984, respectively.

At Pennsylvania State University, he and his wife, Londa Schiebinger, co-directed the Science, Medicine and Technology in Culture Program for nine years.

He coined the term "agnotology" to describe the study of culturally induced ignorance or doubt, particularly the publication of inaccurate or misleading scientific data.

Proctor is writing a book, Agate Eyes: A Lapidary Journey, in which he writes about agnotology: "By contrast with diamonds or asbestos or granite or the minerals we burn for fuel, the lowly agate is the victim of scientific disinterest, the same kinds of structured apathy I have elsewhere called 'the social construction of ignorance.' Agates seem to fall outside the orbit of geological knowledge, and therefore tend to be regarded — if at all — as geological accidents or oddities not really deserving systematic study."

Personal life

He is the longtime partner of fellow historian of science Londa Schiebinger, whom he met at Harvard. They have two sons together, named Geoffrey Schiebinger and Jonathan Proctor. Before having children, the couple decided they would have two and each would receive one of their surnames. The family are avid skiers and enjoy the slopes at nearby Lake Tahoe.

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