IN PERSON: Harvard's Quixotic Pursuit of a New Science


Join the HCW for dinner as Patrick L. Schmidt '78 discusses his new book, an exploration of the rise and fall of the Department of Social Relations at Harvard University. 


When: Monday, January 23rd, 2023, 6:30-8:30pm

Where: Hogan Lovells, 555 13th St NW, Washington, DC 20004 (check in at reception, and you will be directed upstairs)


In the 1940s, several eminent members of the Harvard University faculty found themselves feeling stifled in their respective departments. United by a desire to study “man as he functions in society,” these stars of academia, including Talcott Parsons, Clyde Kluckhohn, and Gordon Allport, came together to create the Department of Social Relations. This new department was an attempt to provide a single home for the study of social psychology, clinical psychology, sociology, and social anthropology. 


In its 26 years of existence, the department had its drama - Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert feeding undergraduates psychedelics as a research project, two classes launched by Students for a Democratic Society, brutal psychological experiments on students (including Ted Kaczynski) - but was never able to establish a strong theoretical underpinning, and eventually collapsed. 


Kirkus Reviews calls the book "an absorbing account of the rise and fall of a notoriously provocative academic division... It gives readers an engaging glimpse into transformations within post–World War II higher education," while Harvard Magazine says "An undergraduate thesis, now amplified by correspondence, historical research, and secondary sources, charts the rise and fall of the Department of Social Relations, the revolutionary attempt to create a new interdisciplinary social science. Towering scholars like Talcott Parsons and David Riesman loom large, as do the intellectual stakes—and the personal and institutional factors that brought the department down." 


Patrick L. Schmidt '78 will join us for dinner and a discussion of his work on the rise and fall of the department. Concentrators are particularly encouraged to attend!


Menu: TBA, but will include buffet-style salad, entrees, desserts, and beer or wine.


Harvard's Quixotic Pursuit of a New Science is available for purchase from the publisher, on Amazon, or from Barnes & Noble



Harvard Club Members & their Guests: $60

Non-Members: $80


Covid-related Safety Requirements: If you have recently tested positive or have symptoms, please do not attend this event.  If you are ill, please notify us prior to the start of the event and we will be happy to credit your ticket payment to a future event.  The Club encourages everyone to be vaccinated and boosted, and to wear masks indoors when not eating or drinking, especially when social distance cannot be maintained.

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6:30PM - 8:30PM Mon 23 Jan 2023, Eastern timezone


Hogan Lovells
555 13th St NW
Washington, DC 20004 United States

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