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Haskins Lecturers


Robert K. Merton

1994 Haskins Lecturer

University Professor Emeritus, Columbia University, and Foundation Scholar, Russell Sage Foundation

The lecture was delivered on April 28 during the 1994 ACLS Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, PA.

From the lecture program:
Robert K. Merton was born in Philadelphia in 1910. He attended the public schools there and studied at Temple University where he received the A.B. in 1931. He continued his studies at Harvard where he was awarded the Ph.D. five years later. After serving as tutor and instructor at Harvard, he was appointed professor and chairman of the Department of Sociology at Tulane University in 1939. Two years later, Professor Merton went to Columbia, where he has remained ever since.

Professor Merton's principal contributions to theoretical sociology are brought together in his classic book, Social Theory and Social Structure, which has had three editions and more than 30 printings. His book, The Sociology of Science, published in 1973, records his first decades of work in that specialty, which he is generally acknowledged to have founded. He has also pioneered in the study of bureaucracy, mass communications, and the professions. He is widely known for his theoretical work on the unintended consequences of social action, in particular on the "self-fulfilling prophecy," a concept-and-term that having been put to use in several academic disciplines has since entered into the vernacular. His humanistic work includes On the Shoulders of Giants: A Shandean Postscript which has just been published in its third, post-Italianate, edition.

The broad range of Professor Merton's scholarly and scientific contributions has been internationally recognized by many honorary awards. Among them are the prize for "distinguished accomplishment in humanistic scholarship" awarded by the ACLS in 1962 and soon afterward, the National Institutes of Health Lectureship in "recognition of outstanding scientific accomplishment." That continuing interest in both the humanities and the sciences is further reflected in his election to various honorary academies, among them, the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Academia Europaea and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. He has been a Guggenheim Fellow, a MacArthur Prize Fellow and, in 1973, a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, which he had helped found 20 years before. He has been awarded honorary degrees by some two-dozen universities, among them Temple, Yale, Harvard, Chicago, Columbia and Pennsylvania in this country and Leyden, Wales, Oxford, Oslo, Krakow and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem abroad. He has served as president of several disciplinary societies, including the American Sociological Association and the Society for Social Studies of Science.

An inveterate editor, Professor Merton has served on the editorial boards of some 25 scholarly and scientific journals, as Advisory Editor on sociology for Harcourt Brace (since 1944), and as the Consulting Editor on sociology for Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.  He was the sociologist serving on the Panel of Consultants of the 16-volume Dictionary of Scientific Biography and, most recently, he joined with David L. Sills to compile and edit Social Science Quotations as Volume 19 of the International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences.

Professor Merton has given many honorary lectures, among them the Bicentennial Lecture on Engineering and Human Affairs at Princeton (1946), the Francis Bacon Lecture at the American Philosophical Society (1961), the Phi Beta Kappa-Sigma Xi Lecture of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1968), the Trumbull Lecture at Yale (1976), the Dean's Distinguished Lecture in the Humanities at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University (1986), the Inaugural Lecture of the George Sarton Leerstoel at the University of Ghent (1986), and the Inaugural Vilhelm Aubert Lecture at the University of Oslo (1991).


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