Sociology first appeared in the curriculum in 1891 when the Department of History and Political Science added Social Science to its title and George Grafton Wilson 1886 was appointed associate professor of political and social science. Wilson taught a course in “The Principles of Sociology and the Development of Primitive Civilization” and two courses in “Modern Social Problems.” In 1895 James Quayle Dealey was appointed assistant professor of social and political science. There seems to have been some variation in whether “Social” or “Political” came first in the title. In 1906, when Lester F. Ward, already well known for his work on botany and geology and his pioneer work in sociology, expressed a desire to leave government service and devote time to his writing, he was invited to become professor of sociology at Brown. Harold S. Bucklin ’10 became an instructor in social science in 1915 while he studied for his Ph.D. In 1923-24 he participated in the Brown-in-China program as professor of sociology at Shanghai College. Harold A. Gibbard and Clarence Glick were instructors and later assistant professors of sociology from 1938 to 1946. Bucklin became chairman of Sociology within the Department of Political Science and Sociology in 1946, and was chairman of the separate Department of Sociology which was created in 1947. Vincent H. Whitney came in 1946, and succeeded Bucklin as chairman in 1948. In the next few years the department was enlarged by the arrival of Kurt B. Mayer in 1950, Harold W. Pfautz in 1952, Sidney Goldstein in 1955, Basil G. Zimmer in 1959, and James M. Sakoda in 1962. Graduate studies focusing on demography and ecology were initiated, and a Ph.D. program was authorized in 1952. After the University acquired the Haffenreffer Museum in 1956, J. Louis Giddings, an Arctic archeologist, was appointed director of the museum and associate professor of sociology. In 1959 the department was renamed Department of Sociology and Anthropology, which it remained until Anthropology became a separate department in 1970. Kurt B. Mayer became chairman of the department in 1957, and was succeeded by Sidney Goldstein in 1963. In the 1960s a third specialization in social organization was added.
The graduate program in demography began in 1952, and the first Ph.D. degree specializing in demography was awarded in 1958. When other departments became interested in population issues, the Population Studies and Training Center was created in 1965, and has since become a multidisciplinary unit organized to facilitate research and training in demography, with a core faculty from the Department of Sociology. Other members, who are associates of the Population Studies and Training Center, teach courses and undertake research on population-related topics, and are affiliated with the Departments of Sociology, Economics, History, American Civilization, Applied Mathematics, Anthropology, and the Division of Biology and Medicine. The Center has received financial support from the Center for Population Research of the National Institutes of Health, the Hewlett Foundation, and the Ford Foundation, for the training of both American and foreign students. In addition to supporting graduate study in population, the Center maintains the Social Science Data Center, the Population Research Laboratory, and the Demography Library.
The Department of Sociology has been of service to the Rhode Island community by conducting studies on population, and urban growth, and of individual educational and social institutions in the state. Chairpersons of the department since Bucklin have been Vincent H. Whitney, Kurt B. Mayer, Sidney Goldstein, Robert Marsh, Dietrich Rueschemeyer, Alden Speare, Frances Goldscheider, and Albert Wessen.