Wirth, Louis, 1897-1952

Alternative names
Birth 1897-08-28
Death 1952-05-10

Biographical notes:

Sociologist. Born, Germany, 1897. Ph. B., University of Chicago, 1919; M.A., 1925; Ph. D., 1926. Instructor, sociology, University of Chicago, 1925-28. Assistant professor, sociology, Tulane University, 1928-29. Assistant professor, sociology, University of Chicago, 1931-1932; associate professor, 1932-39; professor, 1940-1952. Associate dean of Social Sciences Division, 1940-1946.

From the description of Papers, 1918-1952 (inclusive). (University of Chicago Library). WorldCat record id: 52250228

Chairman of the American Sociological Society Committee on Relations with Sociologists in Other Countries.

From the description of Correspondence with Johan Thorsten Sellin, 1951. (University of Pennsylvania Library). WorldCat record id: 243857031

Louis Wirth (1897 - 1952) was born in Gemunden, Germany, on August 28, 1897. He came to the United States at the age of fourteen. After completing high school in Omaha, he pursued undergraduate and graduate work at the University of Chicago, receiving a Ph.B. degree in 1919 and worked as a social worker from 1919 to 1922 in the delinquent boys' division of the Bureau of Personal Service; the M.A. degree in 1925, and the Ph.D. degree in 1926. Aside from an appointment to Tulane University for the year 1928- 29, he was on the staff of the department of sociology at the University of Chicago continuously since 1926, becoming assistant professor in 1931, associate professor in 1932, and full professor in 1940.

Wirth pursued a varied and productive professional career. His interests ranged widely, covering such fields as urbanization, community study, social planning, housing, social organization, human ecology, race relations, nationalities, minority groups, international relations, social theory, and the sociology of knowledge. In the variety of fields he studied social scientists, scholars, government officials, foundations, research agencies, and action groups often sought his advice and guidance. His writings include several books, of which the first is his justly renowned The Ghetto, and over one hundred learned articles. He was an inspiring and highly effective teacher and mentor, stimulating and guiding a surprisingly large number of graduate students who have since risen to prominent positions in sociology and in other areas. In 1938 he published a book entitled Urbanism as a Way of Life, which argued for urbanism as the prevailing way of life in modern society. Wirth argued that the very size and density of modern cities had changed modern people and their relationships.

His distinguished career is mirrored in the many posts of eminence that he came to occupy. Among them were the following: secretary of the American Sociological Society (1932) and president (1947); regional chairman of the National Resources Planning Board; director of planning, Illinois Post War Planning Commission; consultant and adviser for the Social Science Research Council of the National Resources Planning Board and the Federal Public Housing Authority; president of the American Council on Race Relations; editor, "Sociology Series" of the Macmillan Company; associate editor, American Journal of Sociology; and president, International Association of Sociologists. His election as the first president of the International Association of Sociologists - a position he held at the time of his death - is signal testimony to the high repute that he had achieved in world scholarship.

Wirth died suddenly and unexpectedly one spring day in 1952 in Buffalo, New York at the young age of 55. He had been in Buffalo to speak at a conference on community relations; he collapsed and died following his presentation.

From the guide to the Wirth, Louis. Papers, 1918-1952, (Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library 1100 East 57th Street Chicago, Illinois 60637 U.S.A.)


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Ark ID:


  • Sociology, Urban
  • City planning
  • Urban policy
  • Sociology
  • Race discrimination


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