American Sociology
Leonard S. Cottrell, Jr.

Howard Odum

Leonard Cottrell, fortieth president of the American Sociological Society in 1950, was following earlier patterns of combining administration and educational endeavors with sociology. First, in reorganizing the Cornell work in sociology by integrating its rural sociology and agricultural experiment extension studies into an effective sociology curriculum and then combining this with anthropology to develop a department of sociology and anthropology he laid the basis for not only effective teaching and general research but for extended research through special grants for area studies in cultural anthropology. Next, Cottrell's notable work as Chief Sociologist in the Research Branch of Information and Education in O.C.S. of the United States War Department from 1942 to 1945 was in the same general character and resulted not only in distinctive administrative work, with many confidential reports on the morale of American soldiers, but made substantial contributions to the pioneering work, The American Soldier, especially Combat and Its Aftermath, 1949, the second of four volumes on Studies in Social Psychology in World War II. Finally, in 1948 Cottrell became Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Cornell.

The reference to earlier patterns is to some of the first presidents of the Society who were elected from administrative positions. Small was dean of Graduate Studies at Chicago as was Blackmar at Kansas. Vincent was president of the University of Minnesota, where Malcolm Willey was later dean and assistant to the president. Bogardus at South-ern California and Taylor at North Carolina State were at one time deans of their graduate schools. Queen was dean of the School of Liberal Arts at Washington, while Odum was dean at Emory University.


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Cottrell was born at Hampton Roads, Virginia, December 12, 1899, took his B.S. degree at Virginia Polytechnic Institute in 1922, the M.A. at Vanderbilt in 1926, and his Ph.D. at Chicago in 1933. He was instructor at Chicago from 1931 to 1935; assistant professor of sociology at Cornell from 1935 to 1938; professor in 193839; professor and chairman of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology from 1939 to 1948; and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences from 1948 to 1951 when he went to the Russell Sage Foundation as Director of Research. He is fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and was a member and vice-president of the directors of the Social Science Research Council.

Perhaps his two most distinctive contributions are his earlier work with Ernest W. Burgess on Predicting Success or Failure in Marriage and his latest work in the broader field of social psychology in the war in which as chairman and participator in the research branch of the Army's Information and Education Division, which produced what Gordon W. Allport estimates history will date the birth of a "newly coordinated science of human relations between the years 1940 and 1950." In his "A Review of The American Soldier" before the 1949 sessions of the Sociological Research Association, Allport characterized the monographs as "magnificent." Earlier in his career, Cottrell collaborated in a number of publications including Delinquency Areas, 1920, The Development in Social Psychology, 1941. For the Social Science Re-search Council's Committee on Social and Economic Aspects of Atomic Energy he wrote American Public Opinion on World Affairs in the Atomic Age, in which he made an analysis and interpretation of public reaction to the new role of the United States in world affairs. Cottrell here pointed out the sources of confusion and contradiction in public thinking, as gathered from a study of the combined results of several national surveys. Among his other contributions are: "Roles and Marital Adjustment," Publications of the American Sociological Society, Volume XXVII, 1933, pp.10715; "The Prediction of Adjustment in Marriage," American Sociological Review, Volume I, 1936,pp. 73751(with E. W. Burgess); "Part-time Farming in the Southeast," U. S. Printing Office, 1937 (with R. H. Allen et al.) ; "Research in Causes of Variations in Fertility: Social Psychological Aspects," American Sociological Review, Volume II, 1937, pp. 67885; "A Research Note on Dif-


(245) -ferential Fertility with Respect to Birth Order," journal of Social Psychology, Volume 9, 1938, pp. 4956; "The Case Study Method in Pre-diction," Sociometry, Volume 4, 1941, pp. 35870; editor, Social Science Research Council memoranda series on Social Aspects of the War, issued in mimeographed form by the Social Science Research Council, 1941; "The Adjustment of the Individual to His Age and Sex Roles," American Sociological Review, Volume VII, 1942, pp. 61720; "The Analysis of Situational Fields in Social Psychology," American Sociological Review, Volume VII, 1942, pp. 37082; "The Present Status and Future Orientation of Research on the Family," American Sociological Review, Volume XIII, 1948, pp. 123-29.

Cottrell's field is clearly in the special sub-science of social psychology through which he seeks more scientific ways of studying human relations and interpreting them to society effectively enough to make sociology a dynamic science in the modern world. He writes: "Sociology is or can be a science of human relations. It is constantly faced with the risks on the one hand of dealing in broad generalities that have little or no content or meaning and on the other of pursuing atomistic and trivial investigations. Its greatest present needs are an integrating theory of social dynamics and social structure and a methodology appropriate to such a body of theory."

Cottrell tells something of the incidence of his coming to sociology from a prospective specialization in natural science. He writes: "Immediately following World War I, I was studying biology as an under-graduate. Through some of my extracurricular activities I was made aware of many problems in human relations in our society and in the rest of the world. By the time I was a senior I realized that I was more interested in the processes of social life and the problems of the social system than I was in the more conventional preoccupations of a biologist. Moreover, I had arrived at the opinion that the special fields of biology, such as genetics, did not promise the answers I was seeking. Someone suggested that I was probably interested in studying sociology (a word I had rarely encountered), and mentioned Professor Gus Dyer at Vanderbilt. I went to that school and upon registering for courses in sociology I met Professors Ernest T. Krueger and Walter C. Reckless fresh from the University of Chicago. They were enthusiastic teachers and were kind enough to encourage my growing interest in their sub-


(246) -ject. Upon my completion of the Master's degree with Krueger and Reckless I was recommended by them to the faculty at the University of Chicago for further graduate work. At the University of Chicago I had the advantage of studying under Park, Burgess, Faris, Mead and others in sociology and social psychology. My interests have been consistently focused on the dynamics of human interaction and its products both individual and collective."

Cottrell's presidential address at the 1950 meeting of the American Sociological Society at Denver, entitled "Some Neglected Problems in Social Psychology," was published in the American Sociological Re-view, Volume XV, December, 1950, pages 705-712. In it he stressed three problems, namely, empathic responses, the self, and the situation. Cottrell says that he is prepared "to argue that they are not only neglected but are of basic importance. The empathic processes are crucial in social integration; the self organization is the most important resultant of these processes; the concept of the situational field is fundamental to all modern social psychology. The solutions of these three problems together with a suitably consistent theory of motivation without question will form the core of a matured social psychology able to undertake its obligations and responsibilities as the basic social science. "Thus, he continues his interests of long standing in the dynamics of human interaction to the study of which he seeks to effect the cooperation of sociology and social psychology in new attainments of great promise. 

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