Tag Archives: Chicago

New JHBS: William McDougall, the Chicago Committee on the Behavioral Sciences, & More

William McDougall, 1938The Fall 2016 issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences is now online. Articles in this issue explore the work done by psychologist William McDougall (right) during his time in the United States, the Chicago Committee on the Behavioral Sciences during the mid-twentieth century, the development of the National Anthropological Film Center, and more. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“WILLIAM MCDOUGALL, AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGIST: A RECONSIDERATION OF NATURE-NURTURE DEBATES IN THE INTERWAR UNITED STATES,” by ANNE C. ROSE. The abstract reads,

The British-born psychologist William McDougall (1871–1938) spent more than half of his academic career in the United States, holding successive positions after 1920 at Harvard and Duke universities. Scholarly studies uniformly characterize McDougall’s relationship with his New World colleagues as contentious: in the standard view, McDougall’s theory of innate drives clashed with the Americans’ experimentation into learned habits. This essay argues instead that rising American curiosity about inborn appetites—an interest rooted in earlier pragmatic philosophy and empirically investigated by interwar scientists—explains McDougall’s migration to the United States and his growing success there. A review of McDougall’s intellectual and professional ties, evolving outside public controversy, highlights persistent American attention to natural agency and complicates arguments voiced by contemporaries in favor of nurture.

“WALKING THE TIGHTROPE: THE COMMITTEE ON THE BEHAVIORAL SCIENCES AND ACADEMIC CULTURES AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO, 1949–1955,” PHILIPPE FONTAINE. The abstract reads,

The Chicago Committee on the Behavioral Sciences occupies a special place in the eponymous movement. Involving prominent figures such as psychologist James G. Miller and neurophysiologist Ralph W. Gerard, this committee embodied the common belief among behavioral scientists that a cross-disciplinary approach using natural science methods was key to understanding major issues facing mid-century American society. This interdivisional committee fell under the jurisdiction of both the natural and social sciences. As such, its flagship project, an institute of mental sciences, had to face the reluctance both of natural scientists who thought it inadequately scientific and of social scientists who regard its efforts as too narrow in scope and too biological in orientation. Though it failed in its main objective to create an institute, the committee was a formidable instrument of intellectual stimulation and socialization for its members. It provided them with an opportunity to familiarize themselves with each other’s scientific backgrounds, practices and jargons, realize the significance of academic cultural differences and learn ways to accommodate them.

“DOCUMENTING HUMAN NATURE: E. RICHARD SORENSON AND THE NATIONAL ANTHROPOLOGICAL FILM CENTER, 1965–1980,” by ADRIANNA LINK. The abstract reads,

This article analyzes the development of the National Anthropological Film Center as an outgrowth of the Smithsonian’s efforts to promote a multidisciplinary program in “urgent anthropology” during the 1960s and 1970s. It considers how film came to be seen as an ideal tool for the documentation and preservation of a wide range of human data applicable to both the behavioral and life sciences. In doing so, it argues that the intellectual and institutional climate facilitated by the Smithsonian’s museum structure during this period contributed to the Center’s initial establishment as well its eventual decline. Additionally, this piece speaks to the continued relevance of ethnographic film archives for future scientific investigations within and beyond the human sciences.

“ON THE PRAGMATICS OF SOCIAL THEORY: THE CASE OF ELIAS’S “ON THE PROCESS OF CIVILIZATION”,” by FILIPE CARREIRA DA SILVA and MARTA BUCHOLC. The abstract reads,

This paper proposes a new approach to the study of sociological classics. This approach is pragmatic in character. It draws upon the social pragmatism of G. H. Mead and the sociology of texts of D. F. McKenzie. Our object of study is Norbert Elias’s On the Process of Civilization. The pragmatic genealogy of this book reveals the importance of taking materiality seriously. By documenting the successive entanglements between human agency and nonhuman factors, we discuss the origins of the book in the 1930s, how it was forgotten for 30 years, and how in the mid-1970s it became a sociological classic. We explain canonization as a matter of fusion between book’s material form and its content, in the context of the paperback revolution of the 1960s, the events of May 1968, and the demise of Parsons’ structural functionalism, and how this provided Elias with an opportunity to advance his model of sociology.

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Mapping Science & Reform: The First Generation of Chicago-Trained Female Social Scientists, Part III

This is part of a special series of posts on the digital history of psychology from members of the PsyBorgs Lab at York University, in Toronto, Canada. The full series of posts can be found here.

Read Mapping Science & Reform: The First Generation of Chicago-Trained Female Social Scientists: Part I, here & Part II, here.

Conclusion: reform movement & research discussion

Sophonisba Preston Breckinridge, eminent social sciences educator in Chicago
Sophonisba Preston Breckinridge, PhD 1901

Along with those in the social services, much of the work done by individuals identified in the previous post as employed in academia can also be classified as fitting within the reform movement: Matilde Castro was director of the Phebe Anna Thorne Open-Air Model preparatory school at Bryn Mawr; in Chicago, Sophonisba Preston Breckenridge, with her 1913 entry reporting the official position “Assistant Dean of Women,” at the University, was also heading research for the Chicago School of Civics and Philanthropy; Edith Abbott is listed in this year as its Associate Director.

Here again we confront the fact that there are significant limitations to, as well as advantages of, sticking exclusively to the alumni directories in our analyses.    A priority for this project was to explore the possibilities and test the viability of employing primary sources like the directories in collective biography—and while they allowed for a level of precision, they also left our analysis vulnerable to the vagaries of those editors who originally organized the information. The organizational changes made in the 1919 directory render it a considerably less ‘rich’ source than the previous two. Unlike them, it did not organize alumni by their disciplines, or even include the students’ departments in their listings, but instead simply arranged the entire school alphabetically. This factor prevented us from being able to include a third, post-1913 generation in our prosopographical analysis as we could not ascertain from the directory alone who was a social scientist. It also confounded implicit expectations that the information provided would get better over time as the school became better established.

But even taken together as a set, the arbitrariness of the selected years and content can potentially create a historical picture that is inaccurate or misleading, and the integration of information from other sources is necessary for prosopographical purposes. To illustrate, we know from external sources that Breckinridge and Abbott would go on to spearhead the merger of the School of Civics and Philanthropy with the University to become its School of Social Service Administration (Davis, 1984; Muncy, 1991). While the directories can provide an unparalleled opportunity to track the early careers of this cohort, they function best in conjunction with biographical sources to more thoroughly map out the professional trajectories as they developed over a longer period of time. The Breckinridge-Abbott partnership would become highly influential; it can be fairly stated that the many collaborative endeavours over their extensive careers helped lay the theoretical and methodological foundations for the social work industry as it would come to be practiced (Muncy, 1991). Another, lesser known example of a reform oriented career that develops after our alumni directory timeline is that of Elizabeth Laetitia Moon Conard, who after instructing at Grinnell College at the time of the directories, was proactive in Iowa, forming a women’s voting league, advocating for children in poverty, promoting the progressivist party and eventually running for governor on the socialist ticket (Hyman Alonso, 1997).

Continue reading Mapping Science & Reform: The First Generation of Chicago-Trained Female Social Scientists, Part III

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Mapping Science & Reform: The First Generation of Chicago-Trained Female Social Scientists, Part II

This is part of a special series of posts on the digital history of psychology from members of the PsyBorgs Lab at York University, in Toronto, Canada. The full series of posts can be found here.

Read Mapping Science & Reform: The First Generation of Chicago-Trained Female Social Scientists, Part I, here.

Employment: Academic & Social Services

The self-identified locations of the first cohort of Chicago-trained female social scientists during the years of the alumni directories show that whether or not it was their place of origin, the East Coast was, not surprisingly, where the majority would end up working. This was particularly the case for the early generation in the cohort (pre-1906).

The following three maps illustrate the locations for the pre-1906 generation as identified in the three directories (1906, 1913, 1919):

Employment for pre-1906 group in 1906
Employment locations of pre-1906 gen from the 1906 alumni directory. Click to enlarge.
Employment of pre-1906 group from 1913 alumni directory
Employment of pre-1906 gen from the 1913 alumni directory. Click to enlarge.
Employment of the pre-1906 group from the 1919 alumni directory. Click image to enlarge.
Employment of the pre-1906 gen from the 1919 alumni directory. Click to enlarge.

The pre-1906 individuals move around quite a bit, but as can be seen, the general layout is strikingly similar, with the majority clustered in the North and Mid- East Coast, a contingent in Chicago, and a few scattered in Indiana, Iowa, Missouri and California.

Compare that consistency with these following two maps for the post-1906 generation: Continue reading Mapping Science & Reform: The First Generation of Chicago-Trained Female Social Scientists, Part II

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Mapping Science & Reform: The First Generation of Chicago-Trained Female Social Scientists, Part I

This is part of a special series of posts on the digital history of psychology from members of the PsyBorgs Lab at York University, in Toronto, Canada. The full series of posts can be found here.

Chicago Philosophy Club, 1896
Amy Eliza Tanner in white blouse and tie, in between rows

There now exists a large and robust historiography on women and American science before 1970 (Rossiter, 1982; Scarborough & Furomoto, 1987). These works focus on the severe constraints faced by women due to sexist social norms, the tension between pure versus applied work, and the question of whether women scientists generated a specifically feminist-conscious science. With important exceptions (e.g. Rosenberg, 1982; Rossiter, 1982), much of this historiography focuses on a single discipline and often one or two notable (and particularly successful) women. For this project, presented at the 2013 conference of Cheiron: The International Society for the History of Behavioral & Social Sciences, we were interested in comparing the careers of female social scientists within and across disciplines. By relying on prosopography rather than biography, we could compare the career patterns of the better known women to their lesser-known peers (Scarborough, 2005; Pettit, 2008).

With these interests in mind, a focus on the University of Chicago made a lot of sense. Founded in 1893, the University of Chicago accepted women as doctoral candidates at a time when such opportunities were not available at elite east coast institutions (e.g., Harvard). Moreover, the city of Chicago was the site of Hull House, the country’s most famous female-centered social reform network (Sklar, 1985; Muncy, 1991) whose members had a complicated relationship with the male social scientists at the University, as Mary Jo Deegan has shown (Deegan, 1988). By looking at the doctorates granted to women in the social sciences, we were interested in exploring whether further connections to this world of reform could be found. Finally, Chicago made sense for pragmatic reasons. Three early editions of The Alumni Directory of the University of Chicago, published in 1906, 1913, and 1919 are available online. These volumes include systematically organized and fairly complete information about undergraduate institution and subsequent employment of all graduates. This kind of source is invaluable for collective biography. One of our goals was to test the possibilities and limitations of relying on this kind of source, so individuals who did not provide either a personal or professional address for any given directory have been left out of its respective maps.

Our questions are fairly simple: where did these women come from prior to entering Chicago and where did they go upon graduation? Did they all receive their undergraduate education at one of the Seven Sisters schools? Did they ultimately teach at the same kinds of women’s colleges, join reform projects (in Chicago or elsewhere), work in other applied settings, or leave professional life?

Pre 1906 female graduate social sciences at U of Chicago
Post 1906 female graduate social sciences cohort from U of Chi
Post 1906 female graduate social sciences at U of Chicago

The first directory published for the school covers the years up to 1906, with the first female doctor of a social science, Hannah Belle Clark, graduating in 1897. Our cohort, comprised of 38 women over 16 years through 1913, graduated with PhDs from a variety of social science and humanities disciplines including psychology, sociology, anthropology, political science, political economy, philosophy, history, education, neurology, sanitary science, and comparative religion. In this first directory, all but one are listed with a combination of two or three disciplinary titles, such as ‘sociology and political economy.’ In the second directory, the majority of listings identify only one department, and after 1910 five out of eight are in psychology. F

or interpretive clarity, the cohort is split into two generational groups: one for the generation who graduated before the first directory was published (we’ll call them pre-1906) and those who graduated between 1906 and 1913 (we’ll call them post-1906). This division functions rather well for a couple of reasons beyond making the maps easier to read: it splits the total directly in half with 19 graduates in each group, and there do seem to be some differences in career trajectories between them, which will be discussed in the following posts, parts II and III.

Undergraduate Education

Map #1 for blog
Undergraduate Institutions. Click to enlarge.

Continue reading Mapping Science & Reform: The First Generation of Chicago-Trained Female Social Scientists, Part I

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W.R. Harper’s vision for the University of Chicago

Harper with John D. Rockefeller in 1901In a recent issue of History of Education Quarterly, 48(4), Michael Lee discusses William Rainey Harper’s role in the founding of — the second — University of Chicago in 1891 and what the recognition of his explicitly religious approach means for the standard secular histories of higher education.

Harper’s conception of the relationship between scholarly research and Christianity challenges and complicates the dominant history of the development of universities in America. Whereas most mid- and late nineteenth-century university presidents in America gently reassured a nervous public that the Christian religion had nothing to fear from research and scholarly freedom, Harper trumpeted a different message: the research university would save Christianity. (pp. 510-511)

Harper’s approach distinguished him from the other visionary administrators of his time, while at the same time connecting him to an earlier tradition.

American colleges, like Harvard and Yale, were originally little more than boarding schools for young boys training for the ministry. Professors strove to instill godly character and knowledge of the Bible by recitation, rhetoric, and simple mathematics. They were seldom expected to research or discover new knowledge. In the mid- and late nineteenth century, educational leaders such as Henry Phillip Tappan of the University of Michigan, Noah Porter of Yale, Daniel Coit Gilman of Johns Hopkins University, G. Stanley Hall of Clark University, and Seth Low of Columbia College hoped to elevate the level of scholarship in the United States, and the German universities served as their ideal. In this regard, Harper was like many of the first generation of university presidents. However, this article argues that Harper’s vision of a university made him unique among his peers. (p. 510)

The results of this difference shaped the specific character of the early University of Chicago—and the institutional context that greeted John Dewey upon his arrival from the University of Michigan in 1894. Continue reading W.R. Harper’s vision for the University of Chicago

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