Michigan in the Making

"You have the men to talk to."
– Henry Carter Adams to James Angell, 1882
  1. Chapter 1 From Frontier Outpost…

    In 1855, Henry Philip Tappan was three years into his tenure as the first president of the University of Michigan. He was proud of what he had done so far and eager to do much more. To mark his progress — and no doubt to advertise his achievements to date — he sent an invitation to an acquaintance back east, a promising young painter of landscapes named Jasper Cropsey.

    Tappan told Cropsey he was trying to build a true university, a new American center of science and culture, and he wanted the scene captured on canvas.

    So Cropsey came west and spent a few days in Ann Arbor. From his sketches, the first painting of the campus emerged.

    The scene is decidedly rural. A rolling pasture dotted with cows and sheep leads the eye to a modest spread of stark white buildings in the distance. A solitary figure drives a horse-drawn wagon along a dirt road. It’s a picture of a frontier settlement carved out of a forest.

    The contrast with another painting, showing the same plot of ground just fifty years later, could hardly be more striking.

  2. Chapter 2 …To Libraries and Labs

    In this view the year is 1907. The artist is Richard Rummell, a specialist in bird’s-eye landscapes. He looks from the southwest, as if he were floating in a balloon above the corner of State Street and South University. Multi-storied buildings crowd the scene. Academic towers point skyward. It’s a place of purpose and activity, heavily settled and flourishing.

    The two images — Cropsey’s and Rummell’s — symbolize an extraordinary transformation. But the change was deeper than bricks and mortar.

    In those 50 years, Michigan’s campus became not just a bigger place but a new kind of enterprise entirely, embracing a new conception of the world.

    In 1850, American college professors were teaching students to understand their place in a universe fixed by the unchanging mind of God.

    By 1900, Charles Darwin and his interpreters had turned the God-centered universe on its head.

    If, as Darwin argued, living things were always changing in response to their physical environment, then the same must be true of human society, even of individual human beings. Nothing in the human landscape was fixed and immutable — not humans themselves; not social classes; not economies; not the law; not government. Everything was up for grabs.

    So, between 1850 and 1900, big questions about the world multiplied. The pursuit of knowledge became a far more ambitious enterprise, since knowledge might transform the world.

    A handful of American universities were among the first to grasp this new role. Michigan was one of them, and as a result it grew from Jasper Cropsey’s modest outpost to Rummell’s colossus.

    But how did this happen? What brought the University of Michigan, set in what was then a remote corner of the American provinces, into the company of Harvard, Chicago and Johns Hopkins as a leader of American learning?

    A comprehensive answer would have too many threads for a short account like this.

    But we can catch a glimpse of the pattern in the stories of four Michigan professors of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

    They crossed paths on the Diag, knew each others’ families, talked things through together. They were:

    — John Dewey, who blazed a path from philosophy to psychology;

    — George Herbert Mead, who established the intellectual foundations of social reform;

    — Henry Carter Adams, who envisioned economics as a vehicle for social change;

    — Charles Horton Cooley, who seldom strayed more than a few blocks from the Diag, yet unearthed “enduring structures” beneath everyday life.

    These four helped to shape a new way of understanding society — a science of society. And the pursuit of that science became the central mission of the new American university.

    All four might never have come to Michigan had it not been for one leader who opened the door to the new ways of thinking.

  3. Chapter 3 The Indispensable Angell

    James Angell was Michigan’s president from 1871 to 1909. He was not the visionary Henry Tappan had been, and he made no mark as a scholar. His achievement was to make Michigan a congenial home for minds greater than his own. He recruited talent and rewarded it. And though he saw the world through the eyes of a conventional Protestant, he welcomed the ideas that swept American intellectual life after the Civil War.

    Born in Rhode Island in 1829, Angell had divided his early career between academe and journalism. At the end of the Civil War, he moved from the editor’s chair at the Providence Journal to the presidency of the University of Vermont. His growing reputation attracted the attention of Michigan’s regents, who spent two years wooing him. When they finally met his salary demands—and promised to install a flush toilet in the President’s House — he accepted the job.

    Angell understood his mission to be the fulfillment of Henry Tappan’s urge — to create a great research university — and he set out to hire professors who would expand the boundaries of knowledge all across the spectrum of human inquiry.

    Once he landed them, he made them feel welcome. He had “an ability…to let the right men alone,” one admirer wrote, “never harrying them in their work.”

    “We may learn from our Lord that the quest after truth, after all truth, is justified… So all learning, all science, is in its proper sense sacred.”
    – James Burrill Angell
  4. Chapter 4 John Dewey: A New Psychology

    When Angell was president of the University of Vermont, he became friendly with a Burlington couple named Archibald and Lucina Dewey. Mr. Dewey’s business was the family grocery. Mrs. Dewey’s business was to steer her four sons toward college. She never thought that advanced study might turn one of them against her strict Congregationalist faith.

    Shy, “seclusive and bookish” as a youngster, John Dewey showed such exceptional promise at the University of Vermont that James Angell would remember him 15 years later, when he was looking for a philosophy instructor.

    As an undergraduate, Dewey was deeply influenced by scientific methodologies derived from Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. He taught high school for one year; read the masters of Western philosophy for another; then pursued a Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins, the first U.S. university to model itself on the German academies where research ruled the realm.

    Dewey earned his doctorate with one foot in traditional philosophy, the training ground of Christian clergymen of an intellectual bent, the other in a new branch of the field — psychology. Here, the object of study was not God’s mind but the human mind. Dewey would become one of its pioneers. Angell hired him on the recommendation of George Sylvester Morris, head of Michigan’s Department of Philosophy, who had taught Dewey at Hopkins.

    Dewey’s ten years in Ann Arbor were furiously busy. His undergraduate courses included “Empirical Psychology,” “Special Topics in Psychology,” and “Psychology and Philosophy.” Still a religious believer, he taught Bible classes at the Students’ Christian Association on State Street. (“He evidently claimed to be a Christian,” one of his students wrote, “but he was certainly the most liberal one I had ever met.”) He also published the first in a cascade of articles and books: “The New Psychology” (1884); “The Psychological Standpoint” (1885); “Soul and Body” (1886); “Psychology as Philosophic Method” (1886).

    With a handful of other scholars, Dewey was setting out on a perilous bridge. At the near end lay the familiar realm of a God-centered universe in which humans are the handiwork of an all-powerful Creator. At the far end lay a new realm of thought, where God’s role, if any, was obscure. In this new conception, humans were of their own creation. They might or might not stand upon God as the origin of being, but they were surely the product of their relationships with their physical and human environments.

    Child to parent, student to teacher, spouse to spouse, worker to supervisor — in all these relations, Dewey saw the origins of the human self, never fixed but always in flux. This was a Darwinian world of constant change. Like other organisms, humans were evolving in an unfolding relationship with their surroundings and each other.

    The implications for the study of the human situation were profound.

    To Dewey’s way of thinking, American scholars should shift their point of focus. Their object of study should not be a remote and unknowable God. Instead, they should study here-and-now humans and the societies they made. Ideas did not float in the mind of God, waiting to be grasped by mortals. They were tools made by humans for the purpose of solving human problems.

    That idea lay at the foundation of the distinctly American school of philosophy that would become known as pragmatism. Dewey became one of its chief theorists.

    Implications for higher education were equally great.

    If humans and societies were adaptable, like plants and animals, then universities might find a broader mission — to discover what made the human species and its communities tick, and to devise ways to fix what ailed them.

    And in the late 19th century, everyone agreed they were ailing.

    With the decades-old split over slavery settled, the railroads were pushing west. Corporations were spawning phalanxes of factories. Cities were sprawling past old boundaries. Problems of a new urban-industrial age were crying out for solutions. As Dewey leaned over his books in Ann Arbor, he kept one eye on the newspapers. Soon he was convinced that philosophers and other academics must apply their brains to society’s ills.

    “My forenoons now are spent in the library reading up on machinery and wages,” he wrote his fiancee. “It has opened up a new field to me. I almost wish sometimes I was in political science, it is so thoroughly human.”

    The challenge of reforming a society in disarray led Dewey to the field in which he would make his deepest imprint — education.

    If the human brain was a product of its environment, he argued, then scientific studies of how the brain best developed should be used to shape the schools. In time, Dewey would use this basic idea to create a comprehensive theory of education. He imagined the American school as a microcosm of society where children would learn by doing, not by the rote memorization of facts and skills.

    This led Dewey to conceive a plan for an experimental school, and that, in turn, led to his departure from Michigan. The University of Chicago was looking for a new chair in philosophy, and its leaders promised Dewey a lab school where he could try out his ideas.

    He spent ten years in Chicago, then moved to Columbia University in New York, where he remained one of the central thinkers of his era. He died in 1952.

    He always remembered Michigan fondly. As one biographer put it, “Among the happiest times in the Dewey family history were those early years in Ann Arbor.”

    “The notification of an appointment to an instructorship in the Univ. of Mich. was received, and I take pleasure in accepting. I hope my work will be of such a character that you may not have to regret the appointment."
    – John Dewey to James Angell, July 1884
  5. Chapter 5 George Herbert Mead: “Me” and “I”

    In the summer of 1891, after years of spiritual uncertainty and intellectual doubt, George Herbert Mead was finally feeling pretty good. He was 28 years old. He had found his feet as a promising scholar in philosophy and psychology. He was pursuing a Ph.D. at the University of Berlin, one of the world’s great universities.

    Then a letter arrived in his mailbox. It was from John Dewey, who asked Mead to join him in the Department of Philosophy at Michigan in the fall.

    It was an extraordinary chance. But Mead had not finished his graduate work.

    He wrote to President Angell, asking if he might accept the job but postpone his arrival. He wanted to complete his doctoral thesis, a study of how the mind contemplates physical space.

    No doubt Angell asked Dewey if Mead was worth waiting for. The answer, it seems, was a definitive “yes,” since Angell gave Mead permission for a late start.

    Like Dewey, Mead had rebelled against a strict Christian upbringing. Born in the middle of the Civil War, he was raised in Oberlin, Ohio, where both of his Christian-intellectual parents taught at Oberlin College, then a bastion of conservative New England theology. (His mother later became president of Mount Holyoke College.)

    As he grew toward adulthood, the serious youngster began to doubt the strict tenets of his parents’ faith. He was tied to it by his urge to help others, but the writings of Immanuel Kant, the leader of German idealist philosophy, pulled him toward an unhappy agnosticism. “I have been praying and reading the Bible,” he confided to a friend, “[but] to be sure I do not know that there is a God.” He dreamed of teaching philosophy but believed he could never be more than “a poor weak writer, a literary hack.”

    For a time he scraped by on fees he earned for tutoring high school boys in Minneapolis. Then he steeled himself and went east to Harvard, where he finally found success. He earned a master’s degree in philosophy, magna cum laude, and gained enough confidence to further his studies in Germany. The University of Leipzig and the University of Berlin were centers for the study of new ways of thinking. There Mead read deeply in philosophy; grasped the principles of experimental psychology; and explored evolutionary theory. His restless mind abounded in materials for theorizing about human nature and society.

    Then Dewey’s invitation to teach at Michigan arrived. He would teach one course in the history of philosophy, a half-course on Kant, and a course on evolution. “Doesn’t it make your mouth water[?]” Mead wrote a friend.

    According to Mead’s biographer, Gary A. Cook, it was only after reaching Ann Arbor that the young scholar began to reconcile his three intellectual preoccupations — philosophy, psychology and social reform. Cook attributes this largely to Mead’s growing friendship with Dewey.

    Mead arrived at Michigan just as Dewey was working out the terms of his own transition from Christian philosopher to social scientist. Both men were struggling to imagine how they might help to reform American society in the absence of traditional theology. In Ann Arbor they became colleagues and friends, and in their conversations, Mead began the train of thought that would lead him to a new conception of the human self.

    In Mead’s view, the self at the core of a human life is not a soul created by an omniscient, supernatural God. Rather, the self emerges through interactions between the mind and its social environment. The self has two halves — a “me” and an “I.” The “me” is the sum of all the standards and expectations of the individual’s social group, and of how the members of that group perceive the individual. The “I” is the individual’s response to those expectations. “Me” is object, the recipient of society’s messages, while “I” is subject, the individualist who decides how to act in response to the messages received by “me.”

    His conception of the self led Mead to embrace a theory of social reform. The self was not at the mercy of its environment, he said; it was a force in its own right, capable of pursuing the goal of a society “in which the golden rule is to be the rule of conduct, that is, a society in which everyone is to make the interests of others his own interest” — a resounding echo of his early schooling in the church.

    Mead had been prophetic about his shortcomings as a writer. It wasn’t a matter of laziness. He wrote all the time, producing plans for courses, letters, reviews, essays and snippets of theory. The problem was an inability to develop his ideas in the extended form of a book. He never wrote one. “I am vastly depressed by my inability to write what I want to,” he once confided to a relative. “The distance between what I want and what I can is so unbridgeable.”

    But he conveyed enough to his fellow scholars to make a deep impression. His ideas helped to establish not one but two new disciplines — social psychology and sociology, both of which deal in the interactions between individuals and the societies in which they live.

    The most important of Mead’s admirers was John Dewey himself. When the University of Chicago asked Dewey to chair its new department of philosophy, he agreed on one condition—that his friend Mead be offered a position, too.

    After just three years in Ann Arbor, Mead followed Dewey. He remained at Chicago for the rest of his career. Eventually, several of his students would combine their notes of Mead’s lectures with various other writings to create a series of four books, including The Philosophy of the Present (1932) and Mind, Self and Society (1934). They still echo in 21st-century discussions of who we are; why we act as we do; and how we might construct a better future.

    “Have heard from Dewey…[It was a] pleasant letter, and one that promises very satisfactory work.”
    – George Herbert Mead to a friend, 1891
  6. Chapter 6 Henry Carter Adams: The New Economics

    There was one great professor who got away before President Angell could apply his genial charm. He was Andrew Dickson White, a historian who left Michigan in 1863 for his home state of New York, where he became the founding president of Cornell. But he repaid Michigan through a case of mistaken identity.

    In the summer of 1878, White was on the lookout for a young historian to fill a vacant professorship at Cornell. Traveling in Germany, he heard that just such a man was in the neighborhood, Adams by name, a recent graduate of Johns Hopkins. Believing this to be Herbert Baxter Adams, a brilliant Hopkins man of whom he had heard great things, White asked for a meeting. The two men talked and White was much impressed — until he learned that he was speaking with one Henry Carter Adams, a Hopkins Ph.D., yes, but in economics, not history.

    The meeting appeared to be over. Then White thought for a moment. He asked: What sort of course would you offer at Cornell? Adams stayed up all night to write a syllabus. White read it, then offered Adams a semester-long trial.

    Adams proved a success in the classroom, but economics was not in high enough demand to warrant a full-time professor. So White put Adams in touch with his old contacts at Michigan, who agreed to hire Adams for the second semester.

    Like John Dewey and George Mead, Adams had suffered a crisis of faith in college. Though a powerful moral purpose survived, he turned from theology to studies of history, philosophy and social problems. He won a fellowship at Johns Hopkins, where his dissertation may have been the first scholarly study of taxation and public debt.

    Unable to find a full-time post, he pieced together one semester after another at Cornell, Michigan and Johns Hopkins. He longed for a permanent post in Ann Arbor.

    “A man who has any thing to say on social questions can exert a wider influence there [at Michigan] than here [at Hopkins],” he told Angell. “The chief thing [is] you have the men to talk to.”

    But in 1886, Adams’s ideas got him into trouble.

    At a conference on Cornell’s campus, he was asked to comment on the day’s major news—a massive railroad strike in the Southwest. Adams favored the workers. In his remarks, he sketched the economic doctrine taking shape in his mind.

    He was an individualist in the American tradition, he said, but freedom was under fire in the harsh new industrial economy. Workers must have the right by law to control their destiny; it was folly to believe “the liberties of men should be judged by the wording of the law, rather than by the actual condition in which men find themselves…”

    The newspapers quoted Adams and conservatives saw red. Henry Williams Sage, a lumber baron on Cornell’s board, demanded Adams’s head. President White caved to the pressure and let Adams go.

    But news of Adams’s sacking barely got out before James Angell got in touch from Ann Arbor. He asked a question or two about Adams’s remarks on the rail strike. Then, having satisfied himself that Adams had not become a bomb-throwing revolutionary, Angell promptly offered the economist a full-time professorship at Michigan.

    But there was to be no let-up in his migratory life. In Washington, President Grover Cleveland had just established the Interstate Commerce Commission—a response to the same anti-railroad sentiment that Adams had endorsed. The ICC might seem tame by latter-day standards, but it was the federal government’s first attempt to regulate the nation’s economy — a breach in the wall of laissez-faire doctrine.

    For the chair of the new commission Cleveland chose Thomas McIntyre Cooley, dean of Michigan’s Law School and chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court. Though the railroads had benefited from massive public largesse, they did their business in secret. If they were to be regulated, Judge Cooley realized, the government must know precisely what they were up to. Someone was going to have to collect statistics on the nation’s most important industry. That task, thanks to U-M connections, now fell to Henry Carter Adams.

    Once again, Adams divided his time. In Ann Arbor he chaired the new Economics Department. In Washington he developed statistical and accounting systems to keep track of the railroads, first as a staff of one, then as head of a growing bureau. In time, his systems would spread to other industries.

    Meanwhile, he made war on laissez-faire economics in a series of seminal essays. Competition might be good or bad, he contended; it was the duty of the state to harness its power for the public welfare. “It should be the purpose of all laws touching matters of business,” he wrote, “to maintain the beneficent results of competitive action while guarding society from the evil consequences of unrestrained competition.” The same notion should apply to monopoly. If a monopoly hurt people, it should be outlawed. If it helped—as it did, say, in the field of utilities—it should be fostered by the state.

    In many quarters, this was heresy. Like the notion of God as the foundation of all human purposes, the principles of free-market economics were regarded as sacrosanct. Adams was questioning them in the spirit of pragmatic philosophers like John Dewey. In economics as in philosophy, ideas were to serve people; it was not the other way around.

    Despite his reputation as a radical reformer, it was Adams who brought about Michigan’s first courses in business administration, including “Principles of Industry,” “The Theory and Practice of Manufacturing Costs,” “Investment,” as well as courses in accounting, finance and marketing. So many students enrolled in these courses that Michigan’s economists backed the idea of an autonomous program in business. Indeed, Adams is credited as the faculty forerunner of the Ross School of Business.

    He split his time between Michigan and the ICC for nearly twenty-five years. Turning down many offers from other prestigious universities, he remained Michigan’s chair of Economics until his death in 1921. He was mourned as a giant of his field, “an amiable and lovable personality” and a moralist who wielded the tools of science. In decades to come, historians would depict him as one of the intellectual fathers of the Progressive movement and the New Deal.

    “A man who has anything to say on social questions can exert a wider influence there [at Michigan] than here [at Johns Hopkins]. The chief thing [is] you have the men to talk to.”
    – Henry Carter Adams to James Angell, 1882
  7. Chapter 7 Charles Horton Cooley: The Looking-Glass Self

    Thomas Cooley, who led the Law School as professor and dean from 1859 to 1884, built one of the most conspicuous houses in Ann Arbor at the corner of State and South University. In that stone manse, his timid son, Charles Horton Cooley, grew up with stomach trouble that often kept him home after school. “I did a little,” he recalled, “read a great deal, and fancied infinitely.”

    He imagined he might become a great statesman, an ambition he conceived at least in part to measure up to his father’s example and expectations. Thomas Cooley had been a frontier striver who climbed to prominence through herculean work. But his son soon realized he was too shy and contemplative for that kind of career. As he grew to adulthood, he watched his father suffer from “a lifelong habit to care only for action and applause,” leaving him dissatisfied and bitter. So Charles resolved to take the opposite tack, seeking “things that are good in themselves, like beauty, truth, sympathy…”

    His ragged health prolonged his undergraduate years at Michigan. After graduating in 1887, he struggled to find a career. He picked up training in mechanical engineering, tried it for a time, then quit. He earned a master’s degree in economics at U-M, then took a post at the Interstate Commerce Commission, where he spent two years studying railroad accidents. At the ICC, Henry Carter Adams recognized the young man’s promise. With President Angell’s blessing, Adams hired Cooley as an instructor in Michigan’s Economics Department.

    It was Cooley’s final career move. In the shadow of a father who seemed always in transit between Ann Arbor, Lansing and Washington, the son would seldom be seen more than a few blocks from Michigan’s Diag.

    After his first book, an economic analysis of American transportation, he shifted his gaze to the organization of society at large. A close observer said Cooley was beginning to search “below the noisy and confusing currents on the surface to the enduring structures and processes that lay beneath.”

    Cooley came by his theories in quiet contemplation. “A patient grower of ideas,” he called himself. He would have shaken his head in wonder at latter-day sociologists who march into the field with questionnaires and surveys, gathering masses of digital data to analyze by computer. Instead, he did his work on the quiet blocks of Ann Arbor, contemplating the micro-societies around him. He paid particular attention to his own children as they grew and changed in the family’s home at 703 S. Forest Avenue.

    Like Dewey and Mead, who were leaving Michigan’s faculty just as Cooley joined it, he was trying to fill the vacuum left when Christian theology no longer seemed sufficient to explain man’s place in the world. His thinking was a mixture of philosophy and science. His fascination was the organic relationship between the individual and society. Year by year, he assembled a body of ideas that came to undergird much of 20th-century sociology.

    For example, the now-commonplace notion of socialization — the idea that individuals, though born with inherited traits, are fundamentally shaped by the people around them — owes more to Cooley than anyone else. He developed the concept of the “primary group” as the guiding force in the formation of an individual’s character — parents, siblings, play groups, elders.

    Most famously, Cooley developed the notion, still powerful today, of the “looking-glass self.”

    From earliest childhood, he argued, individuals develop the sense of who they are by watching the reactions of the people around them — first the “primary group,” but also the people they meet in everyday life. Through these interactions they learn not only how to behave but what to think of themselves. We gain a sense of who we are, Cooley thought, by observing our own actions, yes, but we also pay close attention to what others think of us—or, to put it more exactly, what we think others think of us. From these impressions, human beings define who they are.

    It’s a fluid process, like evolution itself, capable of change as the person proceeds through life. So some saw the looking-glass self as an antidote to the theories of Sigmund Freud, who believed the experiences of the child forever determined the fortunes of the adult.

    One of Cooley’s best students was his nephew, Robert Cooley Angell, a major sociologist in his own right with genes from U-M’s two most prominent clans. (His parents were Alexis Angell, son of the U-M president, and Fanny Cooley, Dean Cooley’s daughter.) In an essay on his uncle’s work, Angell noted that Charles Cooley and George Mead had mapped the same social terrain but reached different theories about what happened there.

    According to Angell, Cooley “thought that the actual interactions of daily life are dominated by the interactions between ideas of persons [emphasis added] that go on within their minds. His view is much like saying that the rehearsal of a play determines the performance. Mead, on the other hand, thinks of the ultimate interaction as the important thing and the mental process that precedes it as ancillary. To him the performance is what counts.”

    Cooley was deeply serious and self-contained. Yet his students came to revere him.

    “The quiet, sincere manner of one who was obviously an intellectual master evoked deference spontaneously,” his nephew recalled. “His ideas seemed simple and yet they illuminated many corners of life hitherto obscure… In his hands sociology became a door to wider cultural vistas and deeper cultural treasures. He seemed above and beyond his age, so that learning from him was like participating in the broad sweep of human history.”

    “I am a patient grower of ideas.”
    – Charles Horton Cooley
  8. Chapter 8 Epilogue

    In 1900, as James Angell was entering his last decade as president of U-M, he traveled to Chicago to see the presidents of 13 other universities. After two days of meetings, the group announced the formation of the Association of American Universities (AAU).

    The purpose was to make common cause on behalf of the best in American higher education. They were raising the banner for three shared endeavors — original research; advanced training for post-undergraduate students; and innovative courses for undergraduates.

    The AAU included five older private schools — Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Princeton and Pennsylvania. There were five younger privates — Johns Hopkins, Cornell, Chicago, Clark and Stanford. And there were three public universities — Wisconsin, Berkeley and Michigan.

    Michigan’s place on the list affirmed its transformation. It had gone far toward the university that Henry Tappan had envisioned, due in no small part to Professors Dewey, Mead, Adams and Cooley.

    They led and exemplified three fundamental changes:

    1) Based on their exposure to new ideas and methods in psychology, philosophy and biology, they helped to redefine how we understand ourselves and our social environment.  They found a common focus in exploring the complexities of industrial societies. They sought to make things better by understanding, then shaping, the underlying dynamics of social change. Rather than preparing individuals for an eternal reward after life, they focused on the practicalities and possibilities of economic and social reform in the here and now.

    2) They defined new sources for understanding self and society. Before, sources for human understanding had lain in sacred texts. Now, sources would be accumulated through observation of how individuals and societies function over time. That society was constantly changing meant that each day would offer possibilities of new knowledge — so knowledge was inexhaustible, requiring constant study and research. Scientific investigation — that is, social science — that would inform our understanding of the world.

    3)  Their new emphasis on social science and its divisions — sociology, social psychology, political science and economics — helped to shift the center of human exploration from the church, synagogue and temple to university campuses.

    Dewey, Mead, Adams and Cooley propelled Michigan along this path. In doing so, they laid the foundation for its enduring reputation.


    This story grew out of an article by Francis X. Blouin, professor of history and information at the University of Michigan and director emeritus of the Bentley Historical Library. The article is “The Components of Reputation: Science, Pragmatism, and the Transformation of the University of Michigan 1852-1910,” Michigan Historical Review Volume 43, No. 1 (forthcoming, spring 2017).


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