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Ezra Dwight Sanderson

Ezra Dwight Sanderson

September 25, 1878 - September 27, 1944

Dwight Sanderson served as the 31st President of the American Sociological Society. His Presidential Address, "Sociology a Means to Democracy," was prepared for delivery at the organization's 1942 annual meeting. However, due to World War II, the 1942 Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Society was cancelled. Sanderson's address was published in the February 1943 issue of the American Sociological Review (ASR Vol 8, Number 1, pp 1-9).

In his 1951 book, American Sociology: The Story of Sociology in the United States through 1950, Howard W. Odum provided the following biographical sketch of Dwight Sanderson (pages 201-204):

Born at Olio, Michigan, September 25, 1878, Sanderson was graduated from the Michigan State College at nineteen years of age, and received his B.S. in agriculture at Cornell a year later in 1898. Like many others he came to sociology from another field. In this case, with twenty years of special study, teaching, administration, and publishing in the fields of entomology and zoology, Dwight Sanderson went from a fellowship in sociology at Chicago to Cornell as professor of rural sociology in 1918 to make a complete transfer to the field of sociology. With the exception of an excursion to Chicago for his Ph.D. in 1921, Sanderson continued at Cornell until his retirement and death in 1944. He was the thirty-second president of the American Sociological Society in 1942, and had been president of the Rural Sociological Society and the American Country Life Association. Continuing the succession of those who were born in the Middle West and spent their lives largely in the East, Sanderson pioneered in the field of rural sociology which was later to organize its own society and to found its own journal, Rural Sociology. Sanderson was recognized as an American entomologist as well as an American sociologist, having been president of the American Association of Economic Entomologists in 1910 in addition to the presidencies mentioned above.

On the way to his twenty-five years as professor of rural sociology and the head of this department in Cornell University, Sanderson had been successful in research, teaching, and administration in agricultural education in state college and experiment stations. After graduating from Cornell in 1898 he went to Maryland Agricultural College as assistant state entomologist, from which in the fall of 1899 he became entomologist at Delaware Agricultural Experiment Station, where he remained until 1902, when he became entomologist of the State of Texas and professor of entomology in the Texas Agricultural and Mechanical College. Then in 1904 he became professor of zoology at New Hampshire College, now the University of New Hampshire, and later in 1907 he be-came director of its Agricultural Experiment Station. From New Hampshire in the fall of 1910, Sanderson went to West Virginia to be dean of the College of Agriculture and director of the Agricultural Experiment Station, where he remained until 1915, when he went to Chicago (1916–17) as a fellow in the Department of Sociology, thus bridging the distance between his entomology and sociology.

Sanderson's transfer to sociology came as a logical sequence to his many activities in agricultural colleges. As head of the work of a college of agriculture and its new and expanding experiment station, it did not take him long to move into the field of human relationship and leader-ship; nor did it take him long to apply the scientific method utilized in zoology to realistic inquiries into the rural community. In his twenty years as entomologist his articles and bulletins in the extension divisions numbered perhaps a hundred. He published at least four volumes, two of which were texts, School Entomology, in 1916, and Elementary Entomology, 1911. Two others in 1902 and 1911 were on insects and pests injurious to crops and orchards. In addition to his books, his contributions to rural sociology included approximately twenty main articles and as many book reviews. Of the articles, eight were published in Social Forces, seven in Rural Sociology, three in The American Journal of Sociology, one each in the American Sociological Review, The Survey, and The Family. Of the reviews, eight were in Rural Sociology, six in The American Journal, three in the Review. His reviews covered most of the texts in rural sociology and such books as Mumford's The Culture of Cities, Lord's Behold Our Land. Sanderson's books included The Rural Community, in 1932, Rural Community Organization, in 1939, Leadership for Rural Life, 1940, and Rural Sociology and Rural Social Organization, 1942. In addition to these he was responsible for many bulletins in the extension field.

Sanderson sought in his writing to contribute to rural sociology as such rather than primarily to the study of rural problems. Sociology, as a science of society, is considered as studying groups of human beings and therefore sociology studies group relationships or forms of human association. To describe and classify phenomena is the first step and he has done both in his studies of the rural community as rural society. His main contribution here was to describe the community in terms of structure and function in the realistic patterns of centers and hinterlands.

Sanderson's 1942 presidential address had for its subject, "Sociology—a Means to Democracy"; it was printed in the American Sociological Review, February, 1943, Volume 8, No. 1. In this address he pointed out that events have challenged our naïve faith in democracy and forced a new interpretation: democracy is a process toward an ideal relationship that will evolve in the future as it has in the past; it rests primarily upon our attitudes toward others and is fundamentally a faith in a desirable system of human relationships. It is fairly well agreed that political democracy is almost impossible without economic democracy. It involves two principles: the supreme worth of the individual and his responsibility for participating in activities for the common good. Democracy is thus not merely a system, but a moral issue and a religious faith. Democracy has developed as a response to the exigencies of new social situations. Contributions sociology can make to democracy and how it may best function to advance democracy in the future can be discovered through the study of (I) the value of the social self found in group participation; (2) the role of status; (3) the importance of social heritage; (4) the cultural lag; (5) the social order and social control; (6) population factors; (7) race relations. Studies of the above may be applied toward the solution of current problems.

Sociology can do more than analyze society as it exists; it can furnish knowledge of the structure and processes of society, which is necessary if men are to assume responsibility for its intelligent control. Some of the basic problems related to maintenance of a democracy include: (I) centralization of power of government as well as other national groups; (z) discussion and public opinion in a time of crisis; (3) role of the expert; (4) participation and socialization; (5) classes and mobility; (6) group analysis; (7) sociology of business and industry; (8) leadership; and (9) evaluation.

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