Ancient astronaut believer and Sirius Mystery author Robert Temple likes to present himself as an academic despite holding no formal academic position. I have already outlined how he has inflated his membership in the Royal Astronomical Society and the British School of Archaeology at Rome (both open to anyone with cash) and the British School of Archaeology at Athens into “academic affiliations,” despite them being anything but.
Temple also claims the title of “professor” despite never having been employed as a university instructor at any school. He uses this title on the strength of two credentials, as visiting professor of the history of science at Tsinghua University in Beijing since 2001 and as visiting professor of humanities, history and philosophy of science at the University of Louisville in Kentucky from 1999 to 2002.
Traditionally, the title of “visiting professor” is reserved for a professor on sabbatical from one university who is teaching courses at another. Temple holds no university or college professorship and therefore cannot meet this definition.
No search of any online records or news accounts has turned up any record of Temple teaching at Tsinghua University. There are no course listings or syllabi, or student discussions of his courses (in English anyway; I can't speak Mandarin). The university’s own website fails to list him (at least in the English version I searched), despite Temple’s claim to still be an active “visiting professor” there. I have a request in at Tsinghua University for proof of Temple’s claim, and I will post if and when I hear back from them.
I can speak directly, however, to Temple’s second claim of being a visiting professor at the University of Louisville. After online records turned up no mention of Temple in conjunction with Louisville, including searches of the school’s website, the campus newspaper, and local media, I called the university to find out the real story.
I spoke with the department of human resources on Friday, and they confirmed that Robert Temple has never been a paid faculty member at the University of Louisville and has never received money from them as an employee of any kind. HR suggested contacting the department of humanities to see if he served in an unpaid capacity. I did so, and the humanities department informed me that there is no record in their electronic system of Robert Temple teaching courses in the humanities department. Unfortunately, however, their electronic records only cover back to 2001, so they need to conduct a paper search to see what happened in 1999 and 2000. I am still waiting for those results, and I will post them as soon as I have heard back from the school.
There is also no title of “visiting professor of humanities, history and philosophy of science” at the University of Louisville, according to the school.
I am also a bit confused how Temple could have been a “visiting professor” in both China and Kentucky simultaneously in the 2001-2002 school year, as he claims. Surely the courses would have overlapped in time, and I can’t imagine he flew between continents twice a week.
Interestingly, neither of Temple’s most recent publishers, Century Books (a division of Random House) and Inner Traditions, includes the Louisville professorship in its press materials on Temple despite listing the Chinese.
Obviously, I am not able to state definitively that Robert Temple’s claims are untrue, but so far diligent research has turned up no evidence in support of them. Since there is no record of him teaching courses in Kentucky in 2001-2002, the best I can figure, and this is only a guess, is that Temple delivered lectures as a guest speaker at these schools (even though there is no obvious record of these, either) and has transformed those lectures into “professorships.”
I will report back when I have more information.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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