Small, Albion Woodbury 1854-1926

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SMALL, Albion Woodbury 1854-1926

PERSONAL: Born May 11, 1854, in Buckfield, ME; died March 24, 1926; son of Albion Keith Parris (a Baptist minister) and Thankful Lincoln (Woodbury) Small; married Valeria von Massow (daughter of a German general), June 20, 1881. Education: Colby University (later Colby College; Waterville, ME), B.A., 1876; attended Newton Theological Institution, 1876-79; studied at University of Berlin and University of Leipzig; Johns Hopkins University, Ph.D., 1889. Religion: Baptist.

CAREER: Colby College, Waterville, ME, chair of history and political economy, 1881-89, president, 1889; University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, chair of department of sociology, beginning 1892, dean of College of Liberal Arts, then of Graduate School of Arts, Literature, and Science, 1904-24; American Journal of Sociology, founder and editor, 1895-1926. Vice president, Congress of Arts and Sciences at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition at St. Louis, 1904.

MEMBER: l'Institut International de Sociologie at Paris (president, 1905), American Sociological Society (member, 1905; president, 1912-14).


Syllabus: Introduction to the History of European Civilization, Colby University (Waterville, ME), 1889.

The Beginnings of the American Nationality: The Constitutional Relations between the Continental Congress and the Colonies and States from 1774 to 1789, Johns Hopkins Press (Baltimore, MD), 1890, reprinted, Johnson Reprint Corp. (New York, NY), 1973.

A General View of Sociology, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), c.1890s.

(With George E. Vincent) An Introduction to the Study of Society, American Book Co. (New York, NY), 1894, reprinted, Brown Reprints (Dubuque, IA), 1971.

Sociology: Syllabus of a Course of Six Lecture-Studies, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1894.

The Methodology of the Social Problem, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1898.

General Sociology: an Exposition to the Main Development in Sociological Theory from Spencer to Ratzenhofer, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1905, reprinted as General Sociology, Arno Press (New York, NY), 1974.

Adam Smith and Modern Sociology: A Study in the Methodology of the Social Sciences, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1907, reprinted, A. M. Kelley (Clifton, NJ), 1972.

The Cameralists: The Pioneers of German Social Policy, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1909, reprinted, B. Franklin (New York, NY), 1969.

The Meaning of Social Science, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1910, reprinted, Johnson Reprint Corp. (New York, NY), 1971.

Between Eras from Capitalism to Democracy, Inter-Collegiate Press (Kansas City, MO), 1913.

Americans and the World-Crisis, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1918.

Origins of Sociology, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1924; Russell & Russell (New York, NY), 1967.

Contributor of articles to scholarly publications, including the American Journal of Sociology.

SIDELIGHTS: Albion Woodbury Small was instrumental in founding and developing the field of sociology in the United States. Though initially trained as a minister, Small became known as a sociologist and educator; the impact he had and the legacy he left are irrefutable.

Small earned his doctorate in 1889 and was immediately elected president of Colby College, his alma mater. Then, in 1892, he was chosen to found a department of sociology at the new University of Chicago. During his tenure, Small was largely responsible for making his department the leader in universities throughout the United States.

Small's teachings and writing were representative of his desire for his audience to understand that the various social sciences were actually interrelated. His first book, General Sociology, explores the perception of sociology as the processes by which differing group interests clash and become resolved through accommodations and social innovation.

Small published other titles in the field of sociology. In Adam Smith and Modern Sociology, the author gives readers his interpretations of European thinkers. The Cameralists is a detailed review of the social theory underlying economic policies of Germany from the sixteenth through the nineteenth century. Small strived to provide the foundation of modern methodology in social science in his book Origins of Sociology.

What he began to explain in General Sociology is expanded upon in the book The Meaning of Social Science. Though written in 1910, it communicates its meaning in terms considered quite modern for that era. Small argues that social science studies are continuing processes through which people form, implement, and change valuations and perceptions of their experiences. From these valuations come meaning for human behavior, and both values and behavior are patterned in the individual and in society.

Small retired from academica in 1924 and died on March 24, 1926. His legacy includes the American Sociological Society, of which he was a founder, and the American Journal of Sociology, which he helped found and for which he was first editor. He also left behind more than 300 titles of written work.



Dictionary of American Biography, American Council of Learned Studies, 1928-1936.

Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd edition, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1998.

Palmisano, Joseph M., editor, World of Sociology, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2001.*