Buck, Paul H(erman) 1899-1978

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BUCK, Paul H(erman) 1899-1978


Born August 25, 1899, in Columbus, OH; died December 23, 1978, in Cambridge, MA; son of Henry and Adele (Kreppelt) Buck; married Sally Burwell Betts, December 21, 1927. Education: Ohio State University, B.A., 1921, M.A., 1922; Harvard University, Ph.D., 1935. Religion: Episcopalian.


Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, instructor, then full professor of history, 1942; associate dean, Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences, 1939-42, dean, 1942-45, ex-officio dean, 1945-53; director of Harvard University Library, 1955-64.


American Historical Association, Massachusetts Historical Society.


Pulitzer Prize in history, 1938, for The Road to Reunion; Chevalier of the Legion of Honor, 1951; LL.D., Coe College, Ohio State University and Tufts College; Litt.D., Harvard College and Princeton University.


The Road to Reunion, 1865-1900, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1937.

(With others) General Education in a Free Society; Report of the Harvard Committee, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1945.

The Evolution of the National Park System of the United States, U.S. Government Printing Office (Washington, DC), 1946.

(With others) Nature and Needs of Higher Education, the Report of the Commission on Financing Higher Education, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 1952.

(With others) The Role of Education in American History, Fund for the Advancement of Education (New York, NY), 1957

Social Sciences at Harvard, 1860-1920: From Inculcation to the Open Mind, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1965.

Libraries and Universities, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1965.

Contributed to periodical publications


Paul H. Buck, best known for his study of the Reconstruction period in American history, The Road to Reunion, 1865-1900 was also a high-level instructor and administrator at Harvard University.

Buck, an Ohio native, was an enthusiastic reader and history buff who grew up "around the corner from the public library," as he put it. He attended Ohio State University before going to Harvard to earn his Ph.D. Buck became a history instructor, rising through the ranks to eventually become ex-officio dean. He was also, as Harvard's library administrator, a key figure in the 1949 opening of the Lamont Library, which was dedicated to new methods of teaching humanities.

Harvard President Nathan M. Pusey said when Buck became the head of Harvard's library system in 1954: "No one is more alert to the challenge given the library by every educational advance, or more aware of the crucial part the library has played, down though history."

The Road to Reunion emphasizes "the varied threads of reconciliation," as he wrote. "Within a generation after the close of the Civil War the particularistic aspirations of North and South had lost their bitter edge and an American nationalism existed which derived its elements indiscriminately from both the erstwhile foes."

Critics have cited his skillful analysis. "The care with which Professor Buck has composed The Road to Reunion is manifest on every page," N. B. Cousins wrote in Current History. F. L. Owsley in Yale Review hailed Buck's work as "a scholarly and well-balanced book" that displays "a philosophical grasp of the meaning of things." G. F. Milton in New Republic called it "a brilliant performance," adding that Buck "has made a real contribution to our understanding of how an America, almost riven, has become almost one again."

The Road to Reunion won the Pulitzer Prize for history in 1938. Thereafter, Buck produced a handful of other studies, including Libraries and Universities, Social Sciences at Harvard 1860-1920: From Inculcation to the Open Mind, and Nature and Needs ofHigher Education, the Report of the Commission on Financing Higher Education. One book, General Education in a Free Society; Report of the Harvard Committee, had a longstanding impact on Harvard policy, making study of the humanities, social science, and the natural sciences a required part of the curriculum for every student.



Current History, August, 1937, N. B. Cousins, review of The Road to Reunion, 1865-1900.

Library Journal, January 15, 1965, Richard H. Logsdon, review of Libraries and Universities, p. 223.

New Republic, July 7, 1937, G. F. Milton, review of The Road to Reunion.

Saturday Review of Literature, June 12, 1937, H. W. Odum, review of The Road to Reunion.

Yale Review, autumn, 1937, F. L. Owsley, review of The Road to Reunion. *