Albion Woodbury Small

National Cyclopedia of American Biography

SMALL, Albion Woodbury, sociologist and 4th president of Colby university (1889-1892), was born at Buckfield, Maine, May 11, 1854, son of Albion Keith Parris and Thankful (Woodbury) Small. He was graduated A.B. at Colby university in 1876, and A. M. Three years later. Intending to follow the profession of his father who was a Baptist clergyman, he entered the Newton theological institution, but on completing the course, he realized that his bent was for teaching, and he pursued courses in history and philosophy at the universities of Berlin and Leipzig and at the British museum. On his return in 1881, he was appointed professor of history and political economy at Colby university. The youngest member of the faculty, he found his position sufficiently trying, apart from the opposition of several conservative colleagues, who contended "that history and political economy are not proper subjects to be taught in colleges." He was permitted to

(243) lecture only four hours a week, and devoted his leisure to reading authorities on sociology in English, French, and German, thus equipping himself for the career in which he became famous. His sabbatical year in 1888 was devoted to graduate work in history and sociology at Johns Hopkins while teaching English and American Constitutional history. In 1889 he was graduated PhD by Johns Hopkins for a very striking thesis on ‘The Continental Congress’." In the same year he was elected president of Colby university to succeed Rev. George D.B. Pepper, and served in that capacity, and as Babcock professor of intellectual and moral philosophy, until his resignation in 1892. During his incumbency the college was separated into two coordinate divisions for young men and young women respectively, thus abolishing the coeducational system that had been the source of increasing dissatisfaction among the students. During the reorganization of the University of Chicago during 1890-91, Small was invited to found and conduct the department of sociology, which at that time was a decided innovation. He accomplished the task and also founded and edited the department’s "American Journal of Sociology," the first periodical devoted to sociology in the world. He headed the department of sociology in the world. He headed the department of sociology until 1924, when he retired with the title of emeritus professor. During 1905-25 he was also dean of the graduate school of arts and literature. His published writings are "General Sociology" (1905); "Adam Smith and Modern Sociology" (1907); "The Cameralists" (1909); "The Meaning of Social Science" (1910); "Between Eras, from Capitalism to Democracy" (1913), and the "Origins of Sociology" (1924). Smal was vice-president and member of the organizing committee of the World’s congress of arts and sciences held in St. Louis in 1904, and was a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity and the Quadrangle Club. As a constant reader in a large range of subjects, he was unusually well informed outside his own field of work. He was a leader among the sociological scholars and a brilliant and inspiring teacher, while a whimsical and native sense of humor added piquancy to the interest of his lectures. His special recreation was mountain climbing. Small was married June 20, 1881, in Berlin Germany, to Valeria von Massow, a daughter of Gen. von Massow, of Weimar, Germany. They had one daughter, Lina, wife of Hayden Harris, a banker of Chicago. His death occurred in Chicago, Ill. Mar. 24, 1926.


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