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Robert Ellis Thompson--Pioneer Professor in Social Science

James H. S. Bossard
American Journal of Sociology
Vol. 35, No. 2 (Sep., 1929), pp. 239-249
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2766125
Page Count: 11
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Robert Ellis Thompson--Pioneer Professor in Social Science
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Abstract

Instruction in social science was offered at the University of Pennsylvania as early as 1869. In 1874, a professorship of social science was created. The instructor involved in both developments was Robert Ellis Thompson. Consideration of Thompson as a pioneer professor of social science is offered by way of postcript to the history of social science, or sociology, as thus far written. As a person.-Thompson was a man of numerous intellectual attainments and contacts, of broad cultural background. As a teacher.-He had a remarkable influence over his classes, stimulating more men to the scholar's life than any other teacher at Pennsylvania in a generation. As a social scientist.- Thompson conceived of sociology as the science of social relations, insisted that such a science is possible, and urged the use of the inductive method. Society was conceived of as an organism, and there is a hint of the principle of emergence. Thompson, like Carey, whose disciple he was, is usually thought of as an economist. He was essentially a sociologist, however, even if interested in the economic salvation of society. He is significant in that he sensed the importance of social science as a legitimate field for academic instruction for the American undergraduate.

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