American Sociological Association

Franklin H. Giddings

Franklin Henry Giddings

Franklin Henry Giddings

March 23, 1855 — June 11, 1931

“Sociology enables us to attempt a rational and constructive criticism of our social values, and to combine them in a realizable social ideal.” –F.H. Giddings

Franklin Henry Giddings, son of Edward Jonathan Giddings, a prominent Congregational minister and Rebecca Jane Fuller, was born in Sherman, Connecticut on March 23, 1855. Not particularly interested in religious instruction, Giddings spent most of his time with his two grandfathers who taught him the skills of surveying, mechanical drawing, and tanning. In high school, teacher Henry H. Scott introduced Giddings to the works of Herbert Spencer, Thomas Henry Huxley, Charles Darwin, and John Tyndall. These scholars would later influence much of his writings in sociology.

Giddings entered Union College in Schenectady, N.Y. in 1873 where he studied civil engineering. In 1875 he became the associate editor of the Winston Connecticut Herald and taught school in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Giddings married Elizabeth Patience Hawes in 1876 with whom he had three children. During the years of 1878 to 1885 Giddings was best known as a writer, serving as editor of the Berkshire Courier and the New Milford Connecticut Gazette, and writing for the Springfield Republican and the Springfield Union. He worked for a short time in 1885 with the Massachusetts Bureau of Labor Statistics. In these positions he developed a great skill for analyzing public issues, often writing on social science theory and practice. Giddings finally received his A.B. from Union College in 1888 as a member of the class of 1877.

During this time Giddings began to establish his reputation as a scholar writing articles for both academic and non-academic journals (Political Science Quarterly, Massachusetts Bureau of Labor Statistics). One such individual who noticed Giddings’s exceptional intellect was future President Woodrow Wilson, who invited him to fill a position at Bryn Mawr College in 1888 as a lecturer in politics. There, Giddings was swiftly promoted to become a full professor by 1892. He offered courses in political economy and methods and principles of administration, and taught a graduate seminar on theories of sociology in 1890. In 1894 Giddings left Bryn Mawr to become the chair and first full professor of sociology and the history of civilization at Columbia University, notably the first full professor of sociology in the United States. He remained at Columbia for the rest of his professional career.

One of the “four founders” of American Sociology, Giddings built his reputation as a leading quantitative sociologist, behavioralist and theorist. He was one of the scholars responsible for transforming American sociology from a mere division of philosophy into a research science. Giddings’s work became the foundation for the neo-positivism defended by subsequent sociologists. Though little of Giddings’s quantitative work was original, his prolific works and programmatic statements paved the way for later scholars working in the field. He developed the idea of “consciousness of kind”, innate collective feelings of similarity and belonging. Committed to an evolutionary view of society, Giddings believed that human nature is prone to be either progressive or conservative, either of which can be dominant depending on the time and social environment. He also felt that emotion has played an integral part in the development of human society.

Giddings discerned four stages of human evolution: zoogenic, anthropogenic, ethnogenic and demogenic. He asserted that in the lower stages, individuals were more susceptible to emotional forces. Modern society (in the demogenic stage) is not totally free of these forces but uses reason and critical reflection in determining its own destiny. Giddings also believed that societies could not exist without certain inequalities. Inequality is a result of constitutional or genetic differences, forming the bases for class divisions. Giddings felt that these divisions were natural and led to permanent conflicts.

Giddings wrote two of the first textbooks in quantitative sociology: Inductive Sociology (1901) and The Scientific Study of Human Society (1924). Some of his other writings include Principles of Sociology (1896), Elements of Sociology (1898), Democracy and Empire (1900), and Readings in Descriptive and Historical Sociology (1906). In Studies in the Theory of Human Society (1922), Giddings asserted that environment affects the nature of a population and its ability to overcome limitations and create techniques and solutions. In Civilization and Society (1932), he analyzed the conflict between government and customs and folkways during periods of social change. These works were largely influenced by the eighteenth-century thinkers Adam Smith and Herbert Spencer, with ideas such as “sympathy”, “herd instinct” and Social Darwinism. Giddings retired from Columbia in 1928.

He served as the third President of the American Sociological Society for the years 1910 and 1911. At the 1910 Annual Meeting, Giddings delivered a Presidential Address entitled "The Relation of Social Theory to Public Policy." In 1911 his address was entitled "The Quality of Civilization"; both were later published in the Proceedings of the Annual Meeting. was Giddings died on June 11, 1931 in Scarsdale, New York.

“['Consciousness of kind' is] that pleasurable state of mind which included organic sympathy, the perception of resemblance, conscious or reflective sympathy, affection, and the desire for recognition.” –F. H. Giddings

For more information on Franklin Henry Giddings, you may find the following sources useful: