Riesman, David, 1909-2002

Alternative names
Birth 1909-09-22
Death 2002-05-10

Biographical notes:

David Riesman taught at Harvard University from 1959 to 1980 where he was Henry Ford II Professor of Social Sciences. He had previously taught at the University of Chicago from 1946 to 1959.

From the description of Papers of David Riesman, ca. 1931-1988 (inclusive). (Harvard University). WorldCat record id: 76977303

Educator, sociologist.

From the description of Reminiscences of David Riesman : oral history, 1967. (Columbia University In the City of New York). WorldCat record id: 122440684

From the description of Reminiscences of David Riesman : oral history, 1982. (Columbia University In the City of New York). WorldCat record id: 122631706

David Riesman (born September 22, 1909, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.-died May 10, 2002, Binghamton, New York) was an American sociologist, attorney, writer, and educator. He is best known as the author of The Lonely Crowd: A Study of the Changing American Character (with Reuel Denney and Nathan Glazer, 1950), an examination of post-WWII American society. The book struck a chord with readers and became a bestseller, contributing the terms "inner-directed," "outer-directed," and "tradition-directed" to discourse on the social character of modern Americans in an age of burgeoning prosperity and consumerism.

Riesman was educated at Harvard University, receiving an A.B. in biochemistry in 1931 and a law degree in 1934. Following law school, he clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis for a year, then taught law at the University of Buffalo from 1937 to 1941 (now the State University of New York at Buffalo). He also served as a deputy assistant district attorney in Manhattan in 1940, where he contributed to the state legislature's anti-Communist Rapp-Coudert committee hearings. Riesman spent World War II working as an executive at the Sperry Gyroscope Company.

Riesman married Evelyn Hastings Thompson, a writer and art critic, in 1936. She died in 1998. They had two daughters, Lucy Lowenstein and Jennie Riesman; and a son, Michael.

The remainder of Riesman's career was in academia. He taught social sciences at the University of Chicago from 1946 to 1958, then at Harvard until his retirement in 1980. He wrote and co-authored more than a dozen books, including Faces in the Crowd: Individual Studies in Character and Politics (with Glazer, 1952), Thorstein Veblen: A Critical Interpretation (1953), Individualism Reconsidered and Other Essays (1954), Abundance for What? and Other Essays (1964), and The Academic Revolution (with Jencks, 1968).

From the guide to the Riesman, David. Papers, 1947-1982, (Special Collections Research Center University of Chicago Library 1100 East 57th Street Chicago, Illinois 60637 U.S.A.)


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  • Endowment of research
  • Educator--Interviews
  • Women's colleges
  • Sexism
  • Sociologists--Interviews
  • Education--Research


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