Kenneth L. Taylor

Hudson/Torchmark Presidential Professor, EmeritusKenneth L. Taylor

A department member active from 1967 to 2006, I joined the program faculty at a time when its first generation – initially Duane Roller, then Tom Smith and David Kitts – had given it a distinctive character that I found congenial. Both undergraduate and graduate instruction stressed a comprehensive view of science in Western civilization from Antiquity to present times, disregarding anachronistic divisions along modern disciplinary lines. Teaching nearly as often in the first part of the survey (from Antiquity to around 1650) as in the second half, I also created a lower-division course ‘Science in Social Context,’ and later another called ‘Lives in Science: History of Science through Biography.’ Consistently with a generalist ethos that prevailed for some time, emphasizing historical respect for contemporary views on scientific objectives and methodology, it was only with reluctance that I gradually became reconciled to the label ‘historian of geology.’

My research has indeed focused mainly on the early development of geological science, especially in France, during the ‘long’ 18th century, from the founding of the Académie des Sciences to the time of Cuvier. During leave time I have often worked in Paris, with appointments at various times with the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales. My work has been recognized through awards from the Geological Society of London and the Geological Society of America. I have held executive offices in the History of the Earth Sciences Society, the Geological Society of America’s History and Philosophy of Geology Division, and the International Commission on the History of Geological Sciences.

In retirement I have continued in many of these same professional activities. My ongoing research and writing center on the earth sciences in 18th-century France, particularly on the life and work of Nicolas Desmarest and his contemporaries.

Recent Publications

 The Earth Sciences in the Enlightenmen   Studies on Eighteenth-Century Geology.   


The Earth Sciences in the Enlightenment: Studies on the Early Development of Geology. Variorum Collected Studies Series. Ashgate Publishing, Aldershot, UK, and
Burlington, VT, USA, 2008.

  Studies on Eighteenth-Century Geology. By Rhoda Rappaport. Edited with an introduction by Kenneth L. Taylor and Martin J. S. Rudwick. Variorum Collected Studies Series. CS 986, Ashgate Publishing, 2011.  

Names on the Range: Scientists and Science in the Naming of Sierra Nevada Features.

A poster presented at the 39th symposium of the International Commission on the History of Geological Sciences (INHIGEO), Asilomar Conference Grounds, California, July 2014.

One of the conference themes was “California’s Place in the History of the Earth Sciences.”


"A Peculiarly Personal Encyclopedia: What Desmarest's Géographie-Physique tells us about his life and work," published in Earth Sciences History, 2013, 32(1): 39-54.

 Journal of International Geoscience Classic paper (translation and historical commentary):
Nicolas Desmarest's essay on determination of epochs of nature through volcanic products, 1775/1779.
Published in Episodes: Journal of International Geoscience, 2009, 32: 114-124.
 Telliamed in its time  “Telliamed in its time,” a survey review in Metascience