Robert M. Thorson – Condensed Vitae

For full vitae:

Half-Page Text

Robert M. Thorson is Professor of Earth Sciences at the University of Connecticut where he juggles teaching, writing, scholarship, and scholarly engagement within the Department of Earth Sciences, the Honors Program, and other units. He’s garnered awards for science, teaching, journalism, and writing.  Originally a Midwestern native, he morphed into a Northwestern field geologist before morphing, once again, into a Northeastern academic. Visiting scholarly appointments include Harvard University (American Studies, 2017)), Universidad Tecnica de Santa Maria, Valparaiso, Chile (Civil Engineering, 1998), Dartmouth College (Geography, 1992) and Yale University (History, 1990). In 2014 he was elected a Fellow of the Geological Society of America for original research and professional service.  From 2020-2021 he served as Interim Head of the Department of Geosciences to help guide its transition between its former incarnation as the Center for Integrative Geosciences (2004-2019) and its future incarnation as the Department of Earth Sciences (effective 2022). Having finished that administrative work, he has returned to scholarship with a focus on honors education and science communication.

During the dissolution of the former Department of Geology & Geophysics in 2003, Thorson’s veered toward journalism, environmental history, and scholarly engagement as a professor, author, speaker, journalist, critic, and consultant.  One step was toward journalism, publishing nearly 600 essays and articles, 492 in the Hartford Courant, the state’s flagship, capitol-city daily, where he served as an award-winning regular opinion columnist.  Another was toward scholarly engagement, through the Stone Wall Initiative, an online resource/blog for historic landscape conservation within the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History. The step toward environmental history involved being elected to the American Antiquarian Association in 2018 after authoring 7 books, two by Harvard University Press for humanities scholars on Henry D. Thoreau’s 19th century science.  He’s now a frequent book reviewer for the journal Environmental History and the Wall Street Journal.

His books include: The Guide To Walden Pond (2018, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The Boatman: Henry David Thoreau’s River Years (2017, Harvard University Press) and Walden’s Shore: Henry David Thoreau and Nineteenth Century Science (2014, Harvard University Press), Beyond Walden: The Hidden History of America’s Kettle Lakes and Ponds (2009, Bloomsbury), Exploring Stone Walls: A Field Guide to New England’s Stone Walls (2005, Walker & Co.) and Stone by Stone: The Magnificent History in New England Stone Walls (2002, Walker/Bloomsbury), and Stone Wall Secrets, co-authored with Kristine Thorson  and illustrated by Gustave Moore (1998, Tilbury House).


One-Page List


Ph.D. 1979, Geology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA.  — M.S.  1975, Geology,  University of Alaska Fairbanks, AK.  — B.S.   1973, Earth Science Teaching,  Bemidji State College, Bemidji, MN.



  • Geologist: United States Geological Survey (1974-1979), Branch of Earthquake Hazards (Juneau, AK); Alaska Branch (Menlo Park, CA, Branch of Western Environmental Geology (Seattle, WA).


  • Home Institutions: Professor, Department of Geosciences (Earth Sciences), University of Connecticut  (1984-2018). Formerly Associate Professor, University of Alaska  (1980-1984, Fairbanks), and Assistant Professor, University of Wisconsin (1979, Oshkosh).
  • Visiting : Harvard University (American Studies 2013), Universidad Technica Santa Maria (Chile; American Studies, 1998), Dartmouth College (Geography, 1992), Yale University (History, 1991).


  • See vitae for list of peer-reviewed journal articles. Most recent is a mini-monograph (33 pages) for Historical Archaeology 57 (2023) , “Taxonomy and Nomenclature for the Stone Domain in New England.”
  • Google Scholar


Seven published books (2003-2018), and four scholarly monographs. The Guide to Walden Pond (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018), The Boatman (Harvard University Press, 2017), Walden’s Shore (Harvard University Press, 2014), Beyond Walden (Bloomsbury/Walker, 2009), Exploring Stone Walls (Walker, 2005), Stone by Stone (Walker/Bloomsbury, 2002), Stone Wall Secrets (co-authored with Kristine Thorson, Tilbury House, 1998).


  • Smithsonian:  A 2023 feature essay
  • The Wall Street Journal: regular book reviewer since 2018.
  • Hartford Courant: ~500 essays and opinion columns (2003-2018) for the state’s flagship newspaper.
  • Other Newspapers: ~20 freelanced essays ranging from New York Times to the Block Island Times.
  • Magazines:  ~10 freelanced articles including Natural History, LakeLine, Connecticut Magazine, Country.
  • Stone Wall Initiative:  Blogger and coordinator.


Forensic history, museum design, boundary disputes, land use issues, stone walls.

Speaker/Trip Leader

Hundreds of talks, workshops, professional trainings, and field trips, mostly for nonprofit associations and government agencies, usually on environmental history.

Honors & Awards

Solo awards for nonfiction books, journalism, teaching, and scientific research.  Highlights include being an elected member of the American Antiquarian Society, Fellow of the Geological Society of America, recipient of the Connecticut Book Award for nonfiction, and Senior Fulbright Fellow to Chile.

Photo:  Cover of Walden’s Shore, my most in-depth scholarly work, 421 pages of material vetted by Harvard University Press and widely reviewed by specialists.