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Park, Robert E. (1864–1944) and Ernest W. Burgess (1886–1966)

Peter Kivisto


Robert Ezra Park and Ernest Watson Burgess advanced American sociology during its formative period and made lasting contributions to ethnic studies, urban sociology, and the study of collective behavior. Their methodological preference was for ethnography, while they articulated a theoretical perspective shaped in particular by human ecology. Though the sociology department at the University of Chicago had been successfully established by Albion Small and his successor William Isaac Thomas, Park and Burgess were the two central figures responsible for defining and shaping the Chicago School during its most influential period. Although he was in his fifties before his sociological career began, Park quickly assumed the chairperson's position in the department after the forced departure of Thomas due to a morals charge. His younger colleague Burgess became a valued collaborator and assistant. Although Park was the more original of the two, they formed a creative partnership in which their roles were symbiotic: Park the “idea man,” Burgess the “details man”; Park the charismatic leader, Burgess attuned to the needs and concerns of others. Born in Harveyville, Pennsylvania, Park was raised in Red Wing, Minnesota, where as a child he claims to have encountered Jesse James as the bandit fled a bank robbery. He attended the University of Michigan and Harvard, studying with John Dewey at ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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