Glass, David

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David Victor Glass was an English demographer, a sociologist, and the founding editor of Population Studies. From 1928, when he became an undergraduate, most of Glass's intellectual life was spent at the London School of Economics (LSE). In 1936, he became Research Secretary of the newly formed Population Investigation Committee (PIC), a full-time research post. In 1946, Glass was appointed Reader in Demography at the LSE; he was appointed Professor of Sociology in 1948.

In 1936 Glass published The Struggle for Population, presenting research undertaken for the Eugenics Society. The Society was concerned about Britain's low birth rate and wanted evidence on the pronatalist measures taken in some European countries. A revised and enlarged version appeared in 1940 as Population Policies and Movements in Europe.

In 1946, in work for the Royal Commission on Population, Glass (assisted by Eugene Grebenik) conducted a Family Census, based on a ten percent sample of ever-married women in Great Britain. Dates of birth of the respondents' live-born children were recorded, enabling a detailed examination of family building. In their report, Glass and Grebenik presented what may well be the earliest attempt to model fertility. Comparing childbearing in contemporary Britain with the (presumed uncontrolled) childbearing of late-nineteenth-century rural Irish women, and making assumptions about contraceptive effectiveness, they estimated proportions of women attempting to limit their family and desired family sizes.

Glass was influential in bringing about Britain's first national survey of birth control practice (1946–1947), a study sponsored by the Royal Commission. He was a major voice in determining the approach adopted (as he was with later such surveys carried out by the PIC in 1959–1960 and 1967–1968).

In 1947, the PIC established the journal Population Studies with Glass as editor. He continued in that position for the rest of his life (from 1954 with Grebenik as co-editor), and made the journal one of the most important in the field.

In 1949, the LSE and Ministry of Labour conducted a large-scale survey focusing on social mobility, exploring the difference between the social class of parents and that of their children. Glass was editor of, and a major contributor to, the project report, published as Social Mobility in Britain in 1954.

Glass was a prolific writer on a wide range of demographic topics. An obituary bibliography listed 104 items, published between 1934 and 1976. His interests included both demographic history and the history of demographic ideas and methods. In 1953, Glass edited Introduction to Malthus: Population in History, with David Eversley, which appeared in 1965.

See also: Demography, History of; Population Policy; Population Thought, Contemporary.


selected works by david glass.

Glass, David V. 1936. The Struggle for Population. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

——. 1940. Population Policies and Movements in Europe. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Reprint: 1967. New York: A. M. Kelley.

——. 1973. Numbering the People: The Eighteenth-Century Population Controversy and the Development of Census and Vital Statistics in Britain. London: Gordon & Cremonesi.

Glass, David, ed. 1953. Introduction to Malthus. New York: Wiley.

——, ed. 1954. Social Mobility in Britain. London: Routledge & Paul.

——, ed. 1957. The University Teaching of Social Sciences: Demography: A Survey Prepared under the Auspices of the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population. Paris: UNESCO.

Glass, David V., and David E. C. Eversley, eds. 1965. Population in History; Essays in Historical Demography. London: Edward E. Arnold.

Glass, David V., and Eugene Grebenik. 1954. Great Britain Royal Commission on Population Papers, Vol. 6: The Trend and Pattern of Fertility in Great Britain; A Report on the Family Census of 1946. 2 vols. London: H. M. Stationery Office.

selected works about david glass.

Grebenik, Eugene. 1979. "David Victor Glass (1911–1978)." Population Studies 33: 5–17.

Langford, Christopher M. 1988. The Population Investigation Committee: A Concise History to Mark Its Fiftieth Anniversary. London: Population Investigation Committee.

C. M. Langford