Lester Frank Ward

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Lester Frank Ward

Lester Frank Ward (born June 18, 1841 in Joliet , Illinois , † April 18, 1913 in Washington, DC ) was an American paleobotanist and sociologist . He was an important founding father of American sociology and the first president of the American Sociological Association . Its official botanical author abbreviation is " Ward ".


Ward's family could not afford a higher education and so he mainly taught himself Latin, Greek, German and other languages ​​as well as mathematics. He grew up in Illinois and Myersburg, Pennsylvania, where he worked in his brother's wagon wheel store. In the early 1860s he took classes at the Susquehanna Collegiate Institute, Towanda, Pennsylvania. In 1862 he married Elizabeth "Lizzie" Carolyn Vought. He then fought on the side of the Northern States in the Civil War and was badly wounded near Chancellorsville. From 1865 he worked for the US Treasury in Washington DC and also studied at George Washington University (then Columbian University). In 1869 he received his first Bachelor of Arts (“AB”), in 1871 another as a Bachelor of Laws (“LL.B.”) and in 1873 his Master of Arts (“AM”). After his wife Lizzie died in 1872, he married his second wife Rosamond Asenath Simons a year later. From 1882 he was employed at the USGS, initially as an assistant geologist, from 1889 as a geologist and from 1892 as a paleontologist, a position he held until 1906. In addition, from 1882 he was an honorary curator for paleobotany at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC. In 1906 he gave up both activities to accept the chair in sociology at Brown University . Previously, in addition to his work at the USGS, he had earned a reputation as a pioneer in sociology in the USA through several books.


On the basis of his progress hypothesis, he assumed that social hardship and poverty could be minimized through systematic state interventions based on meliorism , here in the understanding of a science of improving society. A sociology interfering in the social and economic life of American society should regulate competition, connect people on the basis of equal opportunity and cooperation, and promote happiness and freedom for all. With this Ward stood in opposition to the social Darwinist ideas that were widespread in economics, politics and sociology as well as the laissez-faire doctrine and development determinism.



  • Bernhard J. Stern (Ed.), Young Ward's Diary , New York: GP Putnam's Sons, 1935.
  • Cape, Emily P., Lester Frank Ward: A Personal Sketch , New York, 1922. (The official biography).
  • Chugerman, Samuel., Lester Frank Ward The American Aristotle. A Summary and Interpretation of His Sociology , Durham, NC, Duke UP, 1939.
  • Burnham, John C., Lester Frank Ward in American thought , Washington, DC, 1956.
  • Rafferty, Edward C., Apostle of Human Progress. Lester Frank Ward and American Political Thought, 1841/1913 , New York / Oxford, 2003.
  • Commager, Henry Steele; The American Mind; Chapter 10: Lester Ward and the Science of Society; Yale University Press; 1950.
  • Becker, Ernest; Escape From Evil; Free Press, reissue edition; 1985.
  • Finlay, Barbara; Lester Frank Ward as a Sociologist Of Gender: A New Look at His Sociological Work; Gender & Society, Vol. 13, No. 2, 251-265 (1999) http://gas.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/13/2/251
  • Ravitch, Diane; Left Back: A Century of Failed School Reforms; Simon & Schuster; Chapter one: The Educational Ladder http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/r/ravitch-back.html
  • Mers, Adelheid; Fusion (graphic art, needs to be magnified) http://adelheidmers.org/aweb/fusion.pdf
  • Rafferty, Edward C .; "The Right to the Use of the Earth": Herbert Spencer, the Washington Intellectual Community, and American Conservation in the Late Nineteenth Century; http://www.historians.org/annual/2006/06program/precirculated/Session145_Rafferty.pdf

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