Gary Downey


Gary Downey is an ethnographic listener interested in engineering studies, especially practices of knowledge in service. Trained as a mechanical engineer (B.S. Lehigh 1974) and cultural anthropologist (B.A. Lehigh 1974, M.A. 1977 Chicago, Ph.D. Chicago 1981), he is Alumni Distinguished Professor of Science and Technology Studies and affiliated faculty member in Engineering Education, Women's and Gender Studies, and Sociology.

Downey is author of The Machine in Me: An Anthropologist Sits Among Computer Engineers (Routledge 1998), co-editor of What Is Global Engineering Education For?: The Making of International Educators (Morgan & Claypool 2010), co-editor of Cyborgs and Citadels: Anthropological Interventions in Emerging Sciences and Technologies (School of American Research Press 1998), and author of the multimedia textbook Engineering Cultures (Virginia Tech 2002).

He is editor of the Engineering Studies Series at The MIT Press and the Global Engineering Series at Morgan & Claypool Press. He is co-founder of the International Network for Engineering Studies and co-editor of its journal Engineering Studies. He was Distinguished Lecturer at the 2006 Annual Meeting of the American Society for Engineering Education and Keynote Lecturer at the 7th World Congress of Chemical Engineering in 2005. 

At Virginia Tech, he is winner of the 2004 William E. Wine Award for career excellence in teaching, 2003 XCaliber Award for high-quality instructional technology, and 1997 Diggs Teaching Scholar Award for original scholarship in teaching. 

He recently received the 2011 Virginia Outstanding Faculty Award, the highest faculty award in the Commonwealth.  Read more at VT News and in VT Magazine.

He serves as President of the Society for Social Studies of Science (2013-2015).

His current research uses historical ethnography to revisit local connections between dominant practices of engineering formation and countries, asking to what extent these have been normative in content. One goal is to extend critical analysis to critical participation, better enabling engineers and STS scholars to identify and reflect critically on their own commitments.