I’m a historian of science and technology living in Altadena, California. I completed a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in 1998, with a dissertation on the development of aircraft landing aids. I work as the historian of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a unit of Caltech.

Most of my work has been at the intersection of science and technology in the later 20th century, and mostly related to aerospace. My most recent book is The Big Myth: How American Business Taught us to Loathe the Government and Love the Free Market with Naomi Oreskes. I also recently published A History of Near-Earth Objects Research, with Donald K Yeomans and Meg Rosenburg, out from NASA in July 2022. I have an edited volume in progress, too: Electrical Conquest, edited with W. Bernard Carlson.

Prior to graduate school, I served as an officer in the U.S. Navy for four years, serving as a Damage Control Assistant and Acting Chief Engineer on a tank landing ship, and then as an operations officer for COMPHIBRON ONE in San Diego, CA.

I downhill ski (mostly at the wonderful Mammoth Mountain in California, though I love Alta too), and scuba dive. I used to whitewater kayak but haven’t run a river in many years. I practice high power rocketry (NAR Level 2) with the Rocketry Organization of California in my free time. My current personal altitude record is 22,098 feet AGL in Black Rock Desert, Nevada, achieved during XPRS 2019.

Featuring this expert

The Big Myth of Market Fundamentalism

Video | Mar 22, 2023

Historians Naomi Oreskes (Harvard University) and Erik Conway (Caltech) talk to Rob about their just released book, The Big Myth: How American Business Taught Us to Loathe Government and Love the Free Market.