Sander van der Leeuw

  • Distinguished Sustainability Scientist, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability
  • Foundation Professor, School of Sustainability
  • Foundation Professor, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • Co-Chair, Complex Adaptive System Initiative
  • Member, Board of Directors for Sustainability at ASU
  • Affiliated Faculty, Center for Biodiversity Outcomes, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability

School of Sustainability
Arizona State University
PO Box 875502
Tempe, AZ 85287-5502


Sander van der Leeuw is the 2012 United Nations Champion of the Earth for Science and Innovation. His expertise lies in the role of invention, sustainability, and innovation in societies around the world. He and his research team investigate how invention occurs, what the preconditions are, how the context influences it, and its role in society. An archaeologist and historian by training, Dr. Van der Leeuw has studied ancient technologies, ancient and modern man-land relationships, and Complex Systems Theory. He has done archaeological fieldwork in Syria, Holland, and France, and conducted ethno-archaeological studies in the Near East, the Philippines and Mexico. Since 1992 he has coordinated a series of interdisciplinary research projects on socio-natural interactions and modern environmental problems. The work spans all the countries along the northern Mediterranean rim. Dr. Van der Leeuw is an External Professor of the Santa Fe Institute and a Corresponding Member of the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences. He teaches courses on the ethnography of innovation.


archaeology; emerging technologies; invention; innovation


PhD, University of Amsterdam, 1976

ADM/MLitt, Medieval History/Prehistory, University of Amsterdam, 1972

BA, History, University of Amsterdam, 1968

Journal Articles


van der Leeuw, S. E., A. D. Wiek, J. Harlow and J. L. Buizer. 2012. How much time do we have? Urgency and rhetoric in sustainability science. Sustainability Science 7(Supplement 1):115-120. DOI: 10.1007/s11625-011-0153-1. (link)


Ernstson, H., S. E. van der Leeuw, C. L. Redman, D. J. Meffert, G. P. Davis, C. Alfsen and T. Elmqvist. 2010. Urban transitions: On urban resilience and human-dominated ecosystems. Ambio 39(8):531-545.


van der Leeuw, S. E. and C. L. Redman. 2002. Placing archaeology at the center of socio-natural studies. American Antiquity 67(4):597-605. (link)

Book Chapters


Janssen, M. A. and J. M. Anderies. 2007. Stylized models to analyze robustness of irrigation systems. Pp. 157-173 In: Kohler, T. A. and S. E. van der Leeuw eds., The Model-Based Archaeology of Socionatural Systems. School for Advanced Research Press.



Lobo, J. and S. E. van der Leeuw. 2005. Allometric scaling and urban systems. Presented at 7-12 August 2005 90th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America, Montreal, Canada.

Conference Papers

In Press

van der Leeuw, S. E. Information processing and its role in the rise of the European world system. June 12-17, 2005, Berlin.