27 July 2023 |
Ronald L. Numbers, the Hilldale Professor Emeritus of the History of Science and Medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a foremost authority on the complex intersection of science, medicine, and religion, passed away on July 24, 2023, at the age of 81.
Throughout his academic career, Numbers authored and edited numerous influential works on the history of science, religion, and medicine, particularly focusing on the relationship between science and religion. Some of his most prominent books include The Creationists: From Scientific Creationism to Intelligent Design, an exhaustive history of the creationist movement in America, and Prophetess of Health: A Study of Ellen G. White, which examines the role of health and medicine within Adventism.
His academic journey began at Southern Missionary College, where he completed his Bachelor of Arts. He then proceeded to earn his master’s from Florida State, and ultimately, he received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1969. His pioneering work in the field of the history of science and medicine led him to a distinguished career at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he taught for more than four decades.
Having grown up in a Seventh-day Adventist family, he later moved away from his faith, coming to refer to himself as an agnostic. This personal journey deeply informed his work, providing him with unique perspectives on matters of faith and science. Numbers described his journey and relationship with the church, among other aspects of his career, in a 2018 interview with Adventist Today.
Numbers’ immense contribution to the historical academic community earned him numerous awards and honors. These include the esteemed Albert C. Outler Prize, the prestigious Sarton Medal, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and an election as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He also held prominent positions in various societies, serving as president of the History of Science Society, the American Society of Church History, and the International Union of History and Philosophy of Science.
The life of Ronald L. Numbers was one defined by a deep, relentless pursuit of knowledge and understanding. His life’s work, encapsulated in his richly historic and thought-provoking writings, will continue to inform future generations of scholars and thinkers, both inside and outside of Adventism.