Born in New York City on June 4, 1927, Robert Leonard Carneiro earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology in 1949 from the University of Michigan and his Master’s degree in 1952. He earned his Ph.D. in Anthropology in 1957 from the University of Michigan.
At the University of Wisconsin, Carneiro served as a Professor from 1956 to 1957. From 1957 to 1969 he was the Assistant to the Associate Curator for South American Ethnology. He also served as Assistant Curator (1957-1963), Associate Curator (1963-1969) and Full Curator (1969-present) for the American Museum of Natural History. During this time, Carneiro held concurrent positions as Visiting Professor at Hunter College from 1963 to 1964, at the University of California, Los Angeles in 1968, at the University of Victoria, and at Pennsylvania State University in 1973. Carneiro is currently an Adjunct Professor at Columbia University.