William H. Goetzmann (July 20, 1930 – September 7, 2010) was an award-winning historian and emeritus professor in the American Studies and American Civilization Programs at the University of Texas at Austin. He attended Yale University as a graduate student and was friends with Tom Wolfe while there. His work on the American West won him the highest prizes for historians, the Parkman Prize and the Pulitzer Prize. He has written and published extensively on American philosophy, American political history, and the American arts. An advocate for the importance of history as a public discussion, he has served in various capacities in television and film production, notably for PBS. He was most recently the Jack S. Blanton, Sr., Chair Emeritus in History and American Studies. His last book published during his lifetime was Beyond the Revolution: A History of American Thought From Paine to Pragmatism (2009).
William H. Goetzmann was born in Washington and raised in the American Midwest, notably in St. Paul, Minnesota, where his family once rented an apartment previously occupied by the bank robber John Dillinger. The Dillinger-apartment experience was one of many that drew him to the study of history as a dramatic narrative populated by colorful individuals and sweeping movements. Educated at Yale University where he received BA and Ph.D. degrees, he taught at Yale from 1955 to 1964, with his interest in the history of the West sparked by the historian Howard R. Lamar. He then moved to The University of Texas at Austin to develop its fledgling American Studies and American Civilization Programs. His early writing concerned American diplomacy and American expansionism; in 1966, Alfred A. Knopf published his Exploration and Empire: The Explorer and the Scientist in the Winning of the American West, which rapidly won the two most prestigious prizes in American historical writing, the Parkman Prize and the Pulitzer Prize. Over the next 5 decades, he published widely, establishing himself as one of the nation's premiere historians, and ranging widely among intellectual history, cultural history, art history, history of science, and history of philosophy.