Obituary: Ellsworth Faris 1874-1953

Harvey J. Locke

Ellsworth Faris — critic, scholar, world traveler, and friend — had an enviable life through his 79th birthday. His criticalness was particularly revealed in his book reviews, which were always impersonal, always coldly analytical, and always enjoyable, even when on one's own work. He assumed that "you can tell your friends by those who say unpleasant things about you."

The eventfulness of his life is shown by the fact that prior to going to the University of Chicago in 1919, he had spent seven years in the Belgian Congo, five years at Texas Christian University, and five years at the State University of Iowa. In between he had been given two fellowships and the University of Chicago and secured his Ph.D. degree. While on the staff of the University of Chicago, 1919-1939, he was Visiting Professor at the University of Washington, Tulane, University of Michigan, and the University of Hawaii. In 1937 he was president of the American Sociological Society.

In a very real way, Ellsworth Faris never retired. In 1947 he toured Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Mexico. He spent 1949 in the Belgian Congo — his third sojourn in that area. In 1949-1950 he was Distinguished Professor of Sociology at Texas Christian University, his Alma Mater. In 1951 he was Professor of Sociology at the University of Utah. He continued his regular attendance at the meetings of the American Sociological Society, including the 1953 meetings at Berkeley.

His scholarship is shown in his book The Nature of Human Nature, his chapters in Mathew's Contributions of Science to Religion, Burgess' Personality and the Social Group, Smith's Essays in Philosophy and Young's Social Attitudes, and in his many articles. His scholarship is also shown in his eleven years as editor of the American Journal of Sociology; his supervision  of many theses, particularly during his chairmanship of the Department of Sociology at the University of Chicago, 1925-1939; his substitution of the more definitive term, preliterate societies, for primitive societies; his analysis of the attitude-value concept; and his interpretation of the social psychology of George Herbert Mead, and the writings of Cooley, Thomas, Pareto, and others. While his training and early background made him a scholar rather than a scientist, he always kept abreast of current investigations. At the age of 72 he pointed to "the change from philosophical speculation and armchair generalization to diligent inquiry and a search after data," and indicated that the most fruitful results come from "the progressive application of measurement and quantitative methods to the facts."

There is little room for sadness at the conclusion of a life as productive as that of Ellsworth Faris. His colleagues, former students, and friends count it a privilege to pay him tribute.

Harvey Locke
University of Southern California


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