American Sociology
George Vincent

Howard Odum

George E. Vincent, sixth president of the American Sociological Society, was another one of the earlier sociologists who was born about the time of the beginnings of the social science movement in the United States and later contributed definitely to the development of sociology

( 103) as a university subject. Interestingly enough, he was one of the very first to receive the Ph.D. degree at Chicago, this degree being conferred upon him and W. I. Thomas as the only recipients in 1896, the year following the first two degrees conferred upon Frederick W. Sanders and Jerome H. Raymond. An interesting coincidence also was the fact that David P. Barrows was the only recipient of the Ph.D. degree the following year, and Barrows went on to become president of the University of California as Vincent later became president of the University of Minnesota.

Vincent was, along with George Howard, U. G. Weatherly, C. H. Cooley, and Lester F. Ward, a native of the Middle West. He was born in Rockford, Illinois, in 1864. He went east and to Europe for his earlier education, receiving his A.B. degree from Yale in 1885, studying in Europe in 1886-87, and returning to Chicago for his Ph.D. in 1906. Previous to this he had been fellow at Chicago in 1892-94, assistant, 1894-96, instructor, 1895-96, assistant professor from 1896-1900, and associate professor from 1906 to 1908. Thus he worked his way, university fashion, up to the full professorship about the time he received his Ph.D. degree, and conformed to the general pattern of the day in getting his doctor's degree at a relatively mature age and moving directly then into his professorship of sociology at the University of Chicago which he held for seven years until 1911, when he was elected president of the University of Minnesota.

In all, Professor Vincent was in the department of sociology for almost twenty years in which he had time to establish himself as one of the few mature American sociologists. As a matter of fact, his main text on sociology was in collaboration with Professor Small; while Vincent was assistant in sociology, they brought out the Introduction to the Study of Society, in 1895. His ex-officio top rating as president of the American Sociological Society came in 1916 after he had become president of the University of Minnesota. Vincent's main contribution was in the way of general sociology, teaching and promotion, rather than as author or in the field of research. His The Social Mind and Education was published in 1897. On the other hand, Vincent had been dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Chicago from 1907 to 1911, had been president of the Chautauqua Institution from 1907 to 1915 and honorary president thereafter until 1937. As president of the University of Minnesota and one of the most popular and eloquent lecturers in the United States,

( 104) he reflected honor upon and gave leadership to the American Sociological Society as its president, and he was consistently devoted to the field in supporting the work of sociology at Minnesota.

Vincent's presidential address, published in the Papers and Proceedings of the Eleventh Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Society in 1917 represented in some ways a timely contribution. Devoted to "Countryside and Nation," it was a discussion of the economic and social condition of America's farms and rural areas, prophetic of what was later to become a separate and dynamic Rural Sociological Society, with its own journal, some twenty years later. Vincent emphasized, among other factors, the increase in farm tenancy, inefficient management, loss of soil fertility, and suggested the extension of the factory system to farms, cooperatively owned farms, and other arrangements for the enrichment of American country life. Vincent's collaboration with Small in the Introduction to the Study of Society was also a pioneer book in that this was perhaps the first elementary textbook in sociology prepared for popular use as a college text. Here the attempt was to chart the field of sociology and to catalogue some of the main problems of sociology somewhat after the manner of Ellwood's later and more widely used Sociology and Social Problems. Even as a pioneer book to which Barnes refers as "an archaic curiosity at the present time, "it was set in the framework of a quite modern construct of the trend from rural life to urban civilization with some ventures into social psychology. It naturally reflected the influence of the European organic analogies that were contributed by Small with a few chapters in "Books" III and IV. But whatever the nature of the book, it must be recorded as a definite pioneer influence in the teaching of American sociology as a college subject.

Yet Vincent, alongside Small, was a dynamic apostle of the new sociology and was a prolific writer of articles in the new American Journal of Sociology. As early as January, 1895, Vincent wrote a major article in the Review of Reviews entitled "Sociological Study in College." This article sets forth a plan of instruction for persons in college who intend to take a major in sociology. It is a plan of instruction springing from the concept of society as "a whole which has been naturally produced by the continuous action of innumerable forces that are still operative, effecting unceasing changes in social structures and activities."

Vincent's special interest in sociology was significant in the light of his

( 105) later educational efforts at the "top of the ladder" at Minnesota from 1911 to 1917, and later as president of the Rockefeller Foundation from 1917 to 1929, when he directed the expenditure of millions of dollars for research and demonstration. He was also a member of the General Education Board from 1914 to 1929. He lectured in Scandinavian universities in 1933 and was a member of various international committees and foundations. He was awarded the honorary degree of LL.D. by Chicago in 1911, Yale in 1911, the University of Michigan in 1913, and the University of Minnesota in 1930. Even with his extraordinarily varied and successful life, he continued a long and active career, even as did his fellow presidents of the American Sociological Society with quieter academic ways of living. When he died on February 1, 1941, he was nearing his seventy-seventh birthday.


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