The list below includes many figures from different areas of sociology. Perhaps, these names are not all the people who donated their knowledge and experience for the benefit of the development of sociology. Nevertheless, they may be called the most outstanding representatives of their epoch. The historical significance of their activities is rather difficult to overestimate; therefore, it can not be said that one of them is a better scientist than the other. They all did one thing and aimed at approximately the same goals; consequently, all of them equally influenced the emergence of the world sociology.
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Short Biographies of Outstanding Sociologists
Anna Julia Cooper
Since Anna Julia Cooper was born in 1859, that is, just before the Civil War, she experienced all the difficulties of slavery (Johnson, 2013). Nevertheless, the woman managed to get a decent education and become the author of many famous works. Most of them sanctified the idea of feminism among African-American women. These works became the basis for the emergence of a new trend in society.
She became the fourth woman in American history who received a doctoral degree, which was quite unusual, especially for that time. She taught courses at several universities, and many educational institutions valued her participation in their education programs. The influence of Anna Julia Cooper on the formation of a new American society is rather difficult to overestimate. Her numerous works are being studied today with quite a significant interest because Cooper became one of the founders of the ideas of feminism. She lived a very long life and died in Washington at the age of 105.
C. Wright Mills
C. Wright Mills was born in the early 20th century. After the end of the Second World War, this well-known professor of sociology worked actively to include the intellectual elite in America’s public and political life. He published his works in many intellectual journals and regularly took part in various courses and educational programs for students. Historians know his close relationship with the Cuban leader Fidel Castro who valued Mills as a specialist and recognized his professionalism. The scholar is considered one of the significant personalities who influenced the philosophical movement of pragmatism. His contemporaries remember him as an active and bright personality who always aspired to knowledge and discoveries.
Charles Horton Cooley
This American sociologist started his career in the second half of the 19th century. His main idea was to recognize the role of consciousness as one of the main factors in the formation of social processes (Waskul and Vannini, 2016). He represented a man as a cultural creature with a particular set of social and moral norms. For him, society had the appearance of a living organism that lives and develops according to its laws.
It was on this basis that he wrote his papers. Most his works about human nature are relevant today and have not lost their significance. He was one of the presidents of the American Association of Sociologists and took an active part in the development and popularization of this science.Besides, in honor of Cooley, the award in the field of sociology is named, and this award is rather the desired prize for any scientist.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman
This woman was not only an outstanding sociologist but also a writer, teacher, and reformer. She sought to prove that the place of a girl in America should be different (Tuttle & Scharnhorst, 2017). She promoted the ideas of feminism and declared her independence herself, leaving her husband. This step was quite bold for the America at that time, and today Gilman is considered one of the founders of the feminist movement. Some her most famous works were written after she gave birth to her child and experienced severe difficulties with her emotional state.
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Nevertheless, Gilman managed to return to a normal life, and the woman performed not only scientific works but also poems, novels, and stories. Almost throughout all her career, she struggled with regular depression, but it did not stop her from becoming one of the most prominent personalities of her time.
Dorothy E. Smith
Smith is the sociologist from Canada, who still lives. The primary interests are feminist studies and sociology. She was born in England, where she received primary education, but later she moved with her family to North America, where the woman gained public recognition. She is an outstanding professor of a few Canadian universities. Smith received several awards for her contribution to the development of sociology, and her ideas are used today as one of the theses of modern sociology. She has already lived quite a long enough life; however, Smith is still involved in intellectual life and sometimes speaks to her public. Her works about women’s equality and relationships in society are relevant and often are the basis for conducting studies and research.
Durkheim is one of the outstanding figures of the French sociological school. He was born in the middle of the 19th century, and today he is one of the founders of this science. In addition to sociology, Durkheim also practiced religion, because he was born to the family of believers. Throughout his life, he sought to know the essence of the man and determine the chief goals of the existence.
Historians call him one of the founders of sociology and put on a par with the most famous personalities that influenced its formation. Durkheim was born in France, but he wrote most of his most famous works in Germany, where he moved after he learned that the French order did not give him the right to teach regularly. It was in the German environment where Durkheim developed his main ideas and gained the greatest recognition.
Goffman was born in Canada to the family of Ukrainian Jews. He owned non-standard ideas about the structure of society and its division into classes (Ritzer & Stepnisky, 2017). Goffman showed considerable interest in psychiatry. Perhaps, the reason for this was the prolonged illness of his life who afterward committed suicide. The scholar spent quite a lot of time in psychiatric clinics, where he studied various cases and observed patients. The works of Hoffmann had a significant influence on world sociology. The terms he introduced are still used today.
This woman was born at the very beginning of the 19th century. She is quite rightly considered one of the founders of such a science as sociology. Logan (2016) writes that since she was a witness of radical changes in society, her ideas served as the valuable basis for her studies. She turned to human interaction in her works. Nevertheless, the main ideas Martineau put forward were related to the equality of women in society and the characteristics of relationships with men. In most of her works, she noted that gender inequality prevents society from developing normally. Martineau also studied some religious aspects, especially the upbringing of children; she was fond of religious and medical practices.
Blumer was an American sociologist and psychologist. In the first half of the 20th century, he worked at the University of Chicago and then moved to California, where he also taught. As Azarian (2017) writes, one of the known Blumer’s approaches is the work with subtle forms of power. He owned the idea of collective representation, and his works are still studied by sociologists around the world. Besides, he was one of the adherents of the popular movement of symbolic interactionism, and he was one of its creators. Blumer’s works served as the basis for the development of many subsequent studies of American and world sociologists.
She was one of the few women who were the laureates of the Nobel Prize. As a sociologist and philosopher, she tried to solve the problems of the poor and migrants. She was a fighter for peace and carried the idea of humanism, universal equality, and the protection of the needy (Haslanger, 2016). For ten years, Addams was the president of the women’s association that fought for freedom and peace. Her works were devoted to the purposes of improving life in society. The woman was one of the founders of the well-known charitable Chicago center. It was decided to name one of the craters of Venus in honor of this famous figure.
Marx is one of the most prominent figures in the world of sociology and social philosophy. Although he was born in the 19th century, his scientific works are still being studied in universities and schools. The ideas of the Communist ideology that he implemented are the object of constant research (Tucker, 2017). The union of Marx with Engels became quite famous, and both of these representatives of sociology and economics were friends until the end of life. Marx did not always live in Germany; at first, he went to Paris and then moved to the English capital with his family. He spent the rest of his life in London. The idea that he developed is called Marxism, and his followers are still studying his conceptions. Moreover, Marx is one of the founders of the theory of capitalism.
This German sociologist, historian, and political economist is not less important figure than Karl Marx. He grew up in a large family and was the eldest child, and since childhood, he was engaged in writing. After receiving a law degree, Weber began working at the University of Berlin, and at that time he created many scientific papers.Weber (2017) calls him the founder of modern social science.
His main ideas were studying the features of the transition of society from traditional norms to more modern. He is one of the most famous German scientists. Furthermore, Weber took an active part in the political life of the country and was one of the chief representatives of the liberal party. The scientist spent the last months of his life in Munich, where he worked on another scientific article.
Merton was born to the family of Russian Jews in Philadelphia, and in his childhood did not show much interest in sociological sciences. Nevertheless, he received an excellent education at two universities, and in the middle of the 20th century, he was elected the chairman of the American Association of Social Scientists. Some people call Merton one of America’s most prominent sociologists of the 20th century.
He paid particular attention to personal contact as one of the important aspects of life in society (Turner, 2014). In his work, he followed the ideas of Emile Durkheim and was the follower of his scientific career. The scholar considered that science was a constantly moving process; he also believed that a person must always replenish his or her knowledge and self-develop. Merton is supposed to be one of the founders of the concept of structural functionalism.
He was born in the US to a Norwegian family who immigrated to North America. After graduating from college, Veblen engaged in teaching and later entered the university, where he studied philosophical and economic sciences.This scholar had a rather significant influence on the development of both German and world sociology. His works are interesting to sociologists for various reasons (Tilman, 2014).
He criticized many of the existing areas and at the same time advanced new theories, one of which was the institutional direction. Veblen made a significant contribution to the development of the market economy and regularly worked in this field. He tried to prove that it is necessary to get rid of social and psychological pressure for the market to work steadily. His works were published both in America and in Europe, where the scientist also traveled and gathered specific materials for his studies.
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This famous figure of sociology is known for being the first African-American to receive his Ph.D. He was one of the most prominent sociologists who worked on the problems of racial inequality. In his works, he often expressed ideas about the struggle for unity and believed that the principal source of achieving prosperity of society was the rejection of the division into classes. DuBois was a public figure and tried to achieve equality among all the strata of population (DuBois, 2013).
The scientist was an active socialist, and for some time he was a member of the party. DuBois wrote several autobiographies, and it was rather logical since the man lived a very long life. He was a supporter of the African freedom movement and died in his historical homeland in Ghana, where he moved after he became disillusioned with the American government. DuBois was 95 years old at the time of his death.
Thus, it can be noted that the rise of sociology was influenced by a significant number of scientists. All these eminent sociologists are justly considered outstanding personalities since their work became the basis for the emergence of this science. The works of most authors have been translated into many languages of the world; their studies have become the basis for the formation of new movements and trends. All of them are the founders of sociological and philosophical disciplines. Therefore, it is entirely justifiable to call them the heroes not only of their time but all the science in general.
Azarian, R. (2017). Joint actions, stories and symbolic structures: A contribution to Herbert Blumer’s conceptual framework. Sociology, 51(3), 685-700.
DuBois, W. E. B. (2013). W. E. B. DuBois on sociology and the black community. D. S. Green, & E. D. Driver (Eds.). Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.
Haslanger, S. (2016). Epistemic housekeeping and the philosophical canon: A reflection on Jane Addams’ “Women and public housekeeping.” New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Johnson, K. (2013). Uplifting the women and the race: The lives, educational philosophies and social activism of Anna Julia Cooper and Nannie Helen Burroughs. New York, NY: Routlegde.
Logan, D. A. (2016). Harriet Martineau, Victorian imperialism, and the civilizing mission. New York, NY: Routlegde.
Ritzer, G., & Stepnisky, G. (2017). Modern sociological theory. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Tilman, R. (2014). Thorstein Veblen and his critics, 1891-1963: Conservative, liberal, and radical perspectives. Princeton, NJ: Princeton university Press.
Tucker, R. C. (2017). Philosophy and Myth in Karl Marx (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Routlegde.
Turner, S. (2014). Robert Merton and Dorothy Emmet: Deflated functionalism and structuralism. Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 44(6), 817-836.
Tuttle, J. S., & Scharnhorst, G. (2017). Charlotte Perkins Gilman and the US West. In J. A. Bergman (Ed.), Charlotte Perkins Gilman and a Woman’s Place in America (pp. 13-46). Tuscaloosa, AL: The University of Alabama Press.
Waskul, D. D., & Vannini, P. (2016). Introduction: The body in symbolic interaction. In D. D. Waskul & P. Vannini (Eds.), Body/embodiment: Symbolic interaction and the sociology of the body (pp. 1-18). New York, NY: Routlegde.
Weber, M. (2017). Max Weber: A biography (H. Zohn, Trans.). New York, NY: Routlegde.