Pool, Ithiel de Sola, 1917-1984

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Political scientist.

From the description of Reminiscences of Ithiel de Sola Pool : oral history, 1970. (Columbia University In the City of New York). WorldCat record id: 122528492

Ithiel de Sola Pool (b. October 26, 1917, d. March 11, 1984) was a researcher of communications and political culture. He was born in New York City to Rabbi David de Sola Pool (Ph.D., Heidelberg), a local spiritual leader of the Sephardic Congregation in New York City, and Tamer Hirshenson (Hunter College, the Sorbonne), a Palestinian-born daughter of a rabbi.

Pool attended school at Fieldston, an Ethical Culture School in New York City, and the University of Chicago. He received a B.A., 1938, M.A., 1939, and Ph.D., 1952 from the University of Chicago when social science was blossoming as an academic discipline under Robert Maynard Hutchins, whose pioneering leadership as an educator and university president from 1929 – 1945 did much to innovate the way in which political science was studied. During his time at the University of Chicago, Pool also assisted two professors, Nathan Leites and Harold Lasswell, in a wartime research project in Washington D.C. that studied the influence of Nazi and Communist propaganda.

Pool was a campus organizer and passionate Trotskyite. He collected newspaper clippings and leftist-leaning issues of various periodicals. Pool’s romance with revolutionary politics did not last, though, for he soon became disenchanted with revolutionary politics coming to believe revolutionary leaders manipulated idealistic symbols and imagery to establish totalitarian regimes. In his later life, Pool would become a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and an advisor to the United States during the Cold War.

Pool held academic appointments at Stanford University and MIT, the latter of which he would hold for most of his career. Prior to his death from cancer, Pool spent approximately 30 years at MIT researching the impact of emerging communications technologies on global politics and culture. During his tenure at MIT, Pool became the founding chairman of the MIT Political Science Department as well as the founder of the MIT Communications Forum. Pool’s innovation and leadership helped grow the Political Science Department at MIT into one of the major academic disciplines of the school. Besides academic endeavors, Pool and his colleagues in the political science department were often advisors in different capacities of domestic and foreign governments.

Pool had a lasting influence on the study of political science. In American Business and Public Policy: The Politics of Foreign Trade (1963), co-authored by Pool, Raymond Bauer and Lewis Dexter, the politics of business are intensely examined through the use of hundreds of interviews with business leaders, congressman, lobbyists, journalists, and opinion makers, as well as eight detailed community studies. The study was aided by Pool’s background and interest in psychoanalysis. The principles of psychoanalysis in general and depth psychology in particular would undergird Pool’s work in political psychology as seen in the articles, “Newsmen’s Fantasies, Audiences, and Newswriting” (1959), as well as “Deterrence as an Influence Process” (1969), which would be a mainstay in Harvard-MIT arms control debates.

The publications of Forecasting the Telephone (1983) and Communication Flows: A Census of Japan and the US (1984), co-authored with Roger Hurwitz and Hiroshe Inose, would further Pool’s status as an authority on the impact of communications technologies on political and social culture. The latter study worked toward a quantitative analysis of communications in which mathematical and computer models could be developed to help study political decision-making. In “The Kaiser, the Tsar, and the Computer” (1965), Pool used computer simulations to access the factors of decision-making and perception in international disputes.

Besides his pioneering academic work, Pool led a successful fight in favor of academic freedom against government intervention and review of research involving human subjects. Pool also believed the classics of social and political thought were insufficient to understanding the landscape of modern communications technologies and their social and political ramifications. His seminal work, Technologies of Freedom (1983), can be seen as an attempt to harmonize forward-thinking accounts of communications technologies and traditional modes of social and political thought. Much like Pool’s life, this work reflects a persistent commitment to human freedom.

Pool died on March 11, 1984 from cancer.

From the guide to the Pool, Ithiel de Sola. Papers, 191935-1948, (Special Collections Research Center University of Chicago Library 1100 East 57th Street Chicago, Illinois 60637 U.S.A.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Pool, Ithiel de Sola, 1917-1984,. Ithiel de Sola Pool collection, 1905-1948. Stanford University, Hoover Institution Library
referencedIn Stanford University Press archival book copies, 1900-2012 Cecil H. Green Library. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
referencedIn Erik H. and Joan M. Erikson papers, 1925-1985 (inclusive) 1960-1980 (bulk). Houghton Library.
creatorOf Pool, Ithiel de Sola, 1917-1984. Reminiscences of Ithiel de Sola Pool : oral history, 1970. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
creatorOf Pool, Ithiel de Sola. Papers, 191935-1948 Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library,
referencedIn Pool, Jean MacKenzie. Memoir, 1998. Harvard University, Schlesinger Library
creatorOf Ithiel de Sola Pool collection, 1905-1948 Hoover Institution Archives.
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
correspondedWith Erikson, Erik H. (Erik Homburger), 1902-1994 person
associatedWith Fourth International. corporateBody
associatedWith Hutchins, Robert Maynard, 1899-1977 person
associatedWith Pool, Jean MacKenzie. person
associatedWith Socialist Workers Party. corporateBody
associatedWith Stanford University. Press. corporateBody
associatedWith Trotsky, Leon, 1879-1940. person
associatedWith University of Chicago corporateBody
associatedWith Yu, Frederick T. C., 1921-, person
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
United States
Political scientists--Interviews
Communism--United States
Arbitration (International law)


Birth 1917-10-26

Death 1984




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