The 1994 Charles Homer Haskins Lecture
The Haskins Lecturer in 1994, the seventy-fifth anniversary of the American Council of Learned Societies, was Robert K. Merton, University Professor Emeritus at Columbia University. Professor Merton, a native of Philadelphia (where the Lecture was delivered on April 28), was educated at Temple University (B.A., 1931) and Harvard (Ph.D., 1936). After serving as tutor and instructor at Harvard, he taught briefly at Tulane University, and then began his long career at Columbia in 1941.
One of the pioneers of modern sociology, Merton in fact began his scholarly graduate career as a humanist, working on the history of science in seventeenth-century England with George Sarton. In recognition of this and subsequent work, especially On the Shoulders of Giants: A Shandean Postscript, Merton was awarded a prize for “distinguished accomplishment in humanistic scholarship” by the ACLS in 1962. He has received numerous other prizes and memberships in scientific honorary organizations and has delivered an impressive number of honorary lectures in this country and abroad.
Perhaps the most astonishing characteristic of this scholar’s career has been its range and variety. He has worked in theoretical and empirical sociology; he has written important historical works; he has investigated a breathtaking variety of subjects; he has helped to establish or strengthen several intellectually crucial institutions, including the Columbia University Bureau of Applied Social Research, the Center for the Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and the Russell Sage Foundation (where he remains an active force). And, though born eighty-four years ago, he is still going strong as a scholar and as a creative force in the intellectual organization of American life.