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Timeline of Technologies + Humanities at Virginia Tech

Saul Halfon (left) and Lee Vinsel playfully consider a low-speed autonomous shuttle undergoing testing at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. Halfon, an associate professor at Virginia Tech, explores public engagement with science and technology, while Vinsel, an assistant professor, studies the intersection of technology and humanity.
Saul Halfon (left) and Lee Vinsel playfully consider a low-speed autonomous shuttle undergoing testing at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. Halfon, an associate professor at Virginia Tech, explores public engagement with science and technology, while Vinsel, an assistant professor, studies the intersection of technology and humanity. Photo by Leslie King

1971

Philosopher Joseph Pitt joins the Virginia Tech faculty.

1972

Pitt and Homer Le Grand start the Humanities, Science, and Technology program.

1974–75

Faculty members in philosophy, history, and sociology share research and learn from each other, creating the foundation for the Humanities, Science, and Technology program.

1976

The university denies a proposal for a major in humanities, science, and technology until the program becomes a department. 

1978

Wilfred Jewkes becomes the associate dean for the humanities and director of the Center of Programs in the Humanities.

Jewkes and Pitt receive a National Endowment for the Humanities grant to support the center and the Humanities, Science, and Technology program.

1979

Virginia Tech creates the Center for the Study of Science in Society to focus on the impact of scientific and technological developments upon society.

By the late 1970s, personal computers have slowly started to take off in the United States.

Pitt becomes founding director of the center and the Humanities, Science, and Technology program. Virginia Tech receives a National Science Foundation grant to fund the Center for the Study of Science in Society.

1981

Larry Laudan joins the philosophy faculty at Virginia Tech. As a stipulation, he requests that the Department of Philosophy and Religion split into two.

1983

The Department of Philosophy and Religion becomes two; the Center for the Study of Science in Society launches master’s and doctoral programs.

1986

The Center for the Study of Science in Society becomes the Department of Science and Technology Studies.

Early 1990s

The department — soon to be renamed the Department of Science and Technology in Society — opens a satellite campus in Northern Virginia; on the main Virginia Tech campus, the Department of Philosophy starts a highly ranked master’s program.

1990

Govindan Parayil becomes the first graduate student to earn a doctorate in science and technology studies at Virginia Tech. He eventually becomes dean of the Patel College of Global Sustainability at the University of South Florida, a position he now holds.

1994

The Center of Programs in the Humanities merges with the Department of Religion to become the Department of Religion and Culture.

2007

Pitt works with faculty in engineering and business to develop a course curriculum in ethics for engineers.

2008

The Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical, and Cultural Thought, a graduate program better known as ASPECT, launches.

2017

Sylvester Johnson joins Virginia Tech as the assistant vice provost for the humanities and a professor of religion in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.

2018

The Center for Humanities launches with Johnson at the helm; the Department of Science and Technology in Society is renamed.

2019

Virginia Tech launches Tech for Humanity, with Johnson as its founding executive director.


The Department of Science, Technology, and Society hosts a forum on autonomous vehicles.