Photo of Professor Andrew Pickering

Professor Andrew Pickering

PhD, physics, London; PhD, science studies, Edinburgh



01392 723279

Amory 319

Andrew Pickering retired from the university in summer 2015 and is now an emeritus professor in the department.

He is internationally known as a leader in the field of science and technology studies. He is the author of 'Constructing Quarks: A Sociological History of Particle Physics,' 'The Mangle of Practice: Time, Agency and Science' and 'Kybernetik und Neue Ontologien,' and he is the editor of several collections of research essays, including 'Science as Practice and Culture' and (with Keith Guzik) 'The Mangle in Practice: Science, Society and Becoming.' He has written on topics as diverse as post-World War II particle physics; mathematics, science and industry in the 19th-century; and science, technology and warfare in and since WWII. His latest book, 'The Cybernetic Brain: Sketches of Another Future' was published in 2010. It analyses cybernetics as a distinctive form of life spanning brain science, psychiatry, robotics, the theory of complex systems, management, politics, the arts, education, spirituality and the 1960s counterculture, and argues that cybernetics offers a promising alternative to currently hegemonic cultural formations. Growing out of his work on cybernetics, Andrew’s current research focusses on art, agency, the environment and traditional Chinese philosophy.


Pickering has held fellowships at MIT, the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, Princeton University, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford and, most recently, Institutes for Advanced Study at the Universities of Durham, Konstanz and Bauhaus University, Weimar. With PhDs in physics (London) and science studies (Edinburgh) he moved from Britain to the United States in 1984, and was for many years professor of sociology and director of an interdisciplinary STS graduate programme at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, before moving to the University of Exeter in 2007.



Research interests

Science and technology studies (STS); history, philosophy and sociology of science and technology; social theory; cybernetics; alternative forms of life, ancient and contemporary, especially those spanning science, technology, the arts, the environment and spirituality.

Research supervision


  • Science & technology studies
  • Social theory
  • Agency, performance & emergence
  • Cybernetics

I am currently very interested in intersections between sciences and technologies that thematise an ontology of emergence and related projects in other fields including the arts, the environment, Chinese philosophy, architecture, music, psychiatry, education, management, robotics, etc.


Other information

Media Work

A 2010 video interview with Andrew Pickering at Nottingham University on the history of cybernetics is available here. A 'podcast' of an interview with Professor Pickering (and Ian Hacking) which was originally broadcast in the 'How to Think About Science' series on CBC radio (5/12/07) is available here.

New Ontologies

In October 2010 a two-day workshop at Exeter supported by the Gulbenkian Foundation brought together artists and academics around the theme of 'new ontologies.' All of the discussions at the meeting can be downloaded as audio files here.

Modules taught


1967-70 Oxford University, Open Scholarship at Wadham College.

1970 B.A. (Physics), First Class Hons.

1970-73 London University, University College.

1973 Ph.D. in theoretical high-energy physics, and Carey Foster Research Prize.

1973-74 Copenhagen University, Niels Bohr Institute: Research in theoretical HEP as Royal Society European Research Fellow.

1974-75 Science Research Council, Daresbury Lab., Daresbury, Warrington: Research Associate in theoretical HEP.

1976-84 Edinburgh University, Science Studies Unit: Research Fellow in History/Sociology of Science.

1984 Ph.D. in Science Studies. Thesis: ‘The History of Particle Physics: A Sociological Analysis’.

1985-94 Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

1987-2001 Director of STIM: interdisciplinary graduate program for studies of science, technology, information and medicine, UIUC.

1989- Joint appointment to Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory, UIUC.

1994-2007 Professor, Department of Sociology and Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

2000-2004 Head, Dept of Sociology, UIUC.

2007-2015 Professor, Department of Sociology and Philosophy, University of Exeter. Now Emeritus Professor.

Honours, visiting positions, etc

1984-85 Exxon Fellow, Program in Science, Technology and Society, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

1986-87 Member of the School of Social Science, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ.

1992-93 Sabbatical year, Dept of History and Philosophy of Science, Cambridge University, England.

1993-94 Shelby Cullom Davis Fellow, Dept of History, Princeton University.

1997-98 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellow. Visiting Professor, Depts of Philosophy and Information and Media Science, Århus University, Denmark (Spring 1998). Associate, Center for Advanced Study, UIUC (Fall 1998). Senior Fellow, Dibner Institute for the History of Science and Technology, MIT; Visiting Scholar, Department of History of Science, Harvard University (Fall 1998).

2000 Visiting Professor, Center for the Study of the Sciences and the Humanities, University of Bergen, Norway (May 2000).

2000-6 Visiting Scholar, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin, Germany (June-July 2000; July 2001; July-August 2002; Nov-Dec 2004; May-June 2005: June-July 2006).

2002-3 Sabbatical year, Science Studies Unit, University of Edinburgh, Scotland.

2005-6 Fellow, Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities, UIUC.

2006-7 Fellow, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford, CA.

2010-11 Distinguished Fellow, Institute for Advanced  Study, and Pemberton Fellow, University College, Durham University (Oct-Dec 2010).

Fellow, Institute for Advanced Study, University of Konstanz, Germany (Jan-Sept 2011).

2011-12 Professor of Sociology at Kyung Hee University, Seoul, Korea

2011 Member, Studies of Science-Technology Governance research group, Kyung Hee University, Seoul, Korea

2012-13 Fellow, Internationales Kolleg für Kulturtechnikforschung und Medienphilosophie (IKKM), Bauhaus-Universität Weimar, Germany.

2007- Member, Steering Committee, Centre for Traditional East Asian Medicine, University of Westminster, London. Editorial positions

1986-90 Joint Editor (with R. A. Jones and L. Hargens) of annual series Knowledge and Society: Studies in the Sociology of Science, Past and Present (JAI Press).

1988- Editorial advisory board of Science Communication (Sage).

1993- Advisory editor of Perspectives on Science: Historical, Philosophical, Social (University of Chicago Press).

1993-2003 Consulting Editor, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science (Pergamon).

1995- Editorial Board, Information and Organization, (formerly Accounting, Management, and Information Technologies) (Pergamon).

1995-97 Consulting Editor, American Journal of Sociology (U. Chicago P.).

1996- Editorial Advisory Board, Science, Technology, and Human Values (Sage).

2003- Consulting Editor, Cybernetics & Human Knowing (Imprint Academic).

2005- Advisory Board, REPRESENTACIONES. Revista de Estudios sobre representaciones en arte, ciencia y filosofía. Journal of Studies in Representation in Art, Science and Philosophy (Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Argentina) (in Spanish and English).

2007- International Advisory Board, Culture, Economy and the Social, book series, Tony Bennett, Penny Harvey and Kevin Hetherington (eds) (London: Routledge).

Grants (US)

1989-90 NSF grant no. DIR-8912095, ‘Making Sense of Science.’ ($40,000)

1992-93 NSF grant no. SBE-9122809, ‘Science and the Mangle of Practice.’ ($60,000).

2002-3 NSF grant no. SES-0094504, ‘The History of Cybernetics: Ashby, Beer and Pask’ ($85,000).

2002 NSF grant no. 0135300, ‘Dissertation Research: Visualization and Representation in Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): A Cross-Cultural Comparison of Scientific Research in the United States and India,’ ($10,000) (co-PI: Amit Prasad).

2005 NSF grant for dissertation research: ‘(Un)Bounding DSM 300.3: Exploring the Negotiation of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in Three Communities of Practice’ (co-PI: Anne McCloskey).



2010            Gulbenkian Foundation, ‘New Ontologies,’ €65.500, for three international workshops (beginning Exeter Oct 2010).