Andrew Hamilton, a professor of molecular biophysics who has been provost of Yale since 2004, is due to take up his post on 1 October 2009, following the departure of John Hood after five years in office.
His appointment is subject to the final approval of the university's academic community.
Professor Hamilton has declined requests for interviews, but he said in a statement: "Oxford is one of the world's greatest universities and the invitation to serve as its vice-chancellor is an inspiring and humbling one."
Professor Hamilton, 55, was born in Guildford, Surrey, and read chemistry at the University of Exeter. He received his PhD from University of Cambridge in 1980. In 2004 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. The website of the Yale Daily News describes him as a "well-tailored Englishman known for his eloquence", who "does not often lose his composure".
University of Cambridge vice-chancellor Alison Richard is also a former provost of Yale University.
- Meanwhile, the University of St Andrews has appointed Louise Richardson from Harvard University as its next vice-chancellor. Dr Richardson, 50, is executive dean of Harvard's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and will join St Andrews in January 2009.