Sal Restivo

Professor, Science and Technology Studies

Dr. Sal Restivo is widely recognized as one of the founders of the field of Science and Technology Studies (STS), a pioneer in ethnographic studies of science, a founder of the modern sociology of mathematics, a contributor to public sociology (he was a founding member of the Association for Humanist Sociology), and a prominent figure in the radical science movement of the 1960s. Dr. Restivo is Professor of Sociology and Science Studies in the Department of Science and Technology Studies, and Professor of Information Technology in the Information Technology Program at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York; Special Lecture Professor in STS at Northeastern University in Shenyang, China; a former Special Professor of Mathematics Education at Nottingham University in Great Britain; and a former Hixon/Riggs Professor of Science, Technology, and Society at Harvey Mudd College. He is a founding member (1975) of and a former president (1994/95) of the Society for Social Studies of Science. He was also the founding editor of the State University of New York Press series on Science, Technology, and Society (now discontinued), and was the first director of Rensselaer's PhD program in Science and Technology Studies. Dr. Restivo is an honor graduate in electrical engineering of Brooklyn Technical High School (New York City), and was one of the eleven inaugural inductees into the school’s Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame (1998). Dr. Restivo is the author of The Social Relations of Physics, Mysticism, and Mathematics (1983), The Sociological Worldview (1991), Mathematics in Society and History (1992), Science, Society, and Values: Toward a Sociology of Objectivity (1994), and Science, Technology, and Society: A Sociological Perspective (2005, with Wenda Bauchspies and Jennifer Croissant); and Red, Black, and Objective: Science, Sociology, and Anarchism (2011). He is also co-editor (with C.K. Vanderpool) of Comparative Studies in Science and Society (1974) and co-editor (with J.P. Van Bendegem and Roland Fischer) of Math Worlds: Philosophical and Social Studies of Mathematics and Mathematics Education (1993); and he co-edited Degrees of Compromise: Industrial Interests and Academic Values with Jennifer Croissant (2001). He is the Editor-in-Chief of Oxford University Press’ Science, Technology, and Society: An Encyclopedia (2005), and the co-editor with Peter Denton of Battleground: Science and Technology, a 2 volume encyclopedia (Greenwood Press, 2008). His works in progress include Gog and Magog: Religion and God for the 21st Century Mind; The Social Brain; The Rejection of Transcendence: Physics, Mysticism, and Society, a revision of Part I of his The Social Relations of Physics, Mysticism, and Mathematics. Asphalt Children: History, Culture, Ethnomathematics and the Street Children of Sao Paulo (co-authored with Monica Mesquita and Ubiratan D’Ambrosio) is currently under review. His first novel, Bring Me the Brain of Nikola Tesla, was published in June 2007.
During the course of his career, Dr. Restivo has carried out several ethnographic studies of science and engineering laboratories, done research on the historical sociology of science and mathematics, studied and been a consultant on problems of science policy for government agencies in the U.S., Brazil, Great Britain, and other countries, and worked on problems in the education of scientists and engineers. He has been working on the development of a sociological theory of mind, brain, and thinking since the early 1990s. In conjunction with his work on mind and brain, Dr. Restivo developed the Draw a Brain protocols for studying people’s concepts and images of brain, mind, and emotions. He is also a member of a research team studying magic and culture (this study includes research at the Magic Castle in Hollywood, where he is a member of the Academy of Magical Arts). He is focusing on the ethnography of close-up magic. The team’s book in progress is titled Open Sesame: Magic and Culture.
Dr. Restivo's research has been supported by grants and fellowships from the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the U.S. Office of Education as well as a number of overseas agencies. During 1985-1986, he was a Visiting National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow doing research on the historical sociology of mathematics at the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology at Victoria College, University of Toronto. During the 1994-95 academic year, he spent the fall semester lecturing in Great Britain. In the spring, he was Belgian National Research Foundation Professor at the Free University in Brussels, and Nordic Research Academy Professor at the universities of Gothenburg (Sweden) and Roskilde (Denmark). Dr. Restivo was appointed Honorary Research Fellow in the School of Education at Birmingham University (UK) for 1998-99. In May 1999 he was Visiting Lecturer in mathematics and mathematics education at Copenhagen University. In April 2000, RPI awarded him the Jerome Fischbach Travel Grant in recognition of his educational contributions to the Institute.