Famous American Sociologists

Right IconThis ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

Find out more about the greatest American Sociologists, including Hannah Arendt, Judith Butler, Stanley Milgram, Erving Goffman and Theodor W. Adorno.
Vote for Your Favourite American Sociologists
 1 
Robert K. Merton
(Sociologist)
Robert K. Merton
6
Birthdate: July 4, 1910
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Philadelphia
Died: February 23, 2003

Robert K. Merton was an American sociologist best remembered for his immense contribution to the field of criminology. Merton, who is credited with founding the sociology of science, was honored with the prestigious National Medal of Science in 1994 for his contribution to the field. He is also credited with mentoring fellow sociologists like Jonathan R. Cole.

 2 
George Herbert Mead
(Philosopher)
George Herbert Mead
6
Birthdate: February 27, 1863
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: South Hadley, Massachusetts, United States
Died: April 26, 1931

American philosopher and social psychologist George Herbert Mead was one of the pioneers of pragmatism and symbolic interactionism. He taught at the University of Chicago, and his ideas later came to be known as the Chicago school of sociology. His notable lectures were published as books only after his death.

 3 
Herbert Marcuse
(Philosopher and Sociologist His Best-Known Works are "Eros and Civilization" (1955) and "One-Dimensional Man.")
Herbert Marcuse
4
Birthdate: July 19, 1898
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Berlin, Germany
Died: July 29, 1979

The proponent of the Frankfurt School of critical theory, Herbert Marcuse largely influenced the leftist student revolts of the 1960s. Equipped with a PhD in German literature, he wrote Hegel’s Ontology and the Theory of Historicity, with Martin Heidegger. His Eros and Civilization spoke at length about capitalism.

 4 
Erving Goffman
(The Most Influential American Sociologist of the Twentieth Century)
Erving Goffman
4
Birthdate: June 11, 1922
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Mannville, Alberta, Canada
Died: November 19, 1982

Canadian-American sociologist, social-psychologist and writer Erving Goffman, regarded as the most influential American sociologist of the 20th century by some, is best-known for his study of symbolic interaction and development of his dramaturgical analysis. His book The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life was the first that treated face-to-face interaction as a subject of sociological study.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman
6
Birthdate: July 3, 1860
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Hartford, Connecticut
Died: August 17, 1935

Charlotte Perkins Gilman was an American novelist, humanist, poet, and short-story writer. Best remembered as a utopian feminist, Gilman served as an inspiration for several generations of feminists. A National Women's Hall of Fame inductee, Charlotte Perkins Gilman is also remembered for her semi-autobiographical work, The Yellow Wallpaper.

 6 
Stanley Milgram
(Psychologist, University teacher, Sociologist)
Stanley Milgram
8
Birthdate: August 15, 1933
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: New York City
Died: December 20, 1984

Social psychologist Stanley Milgram was inspired by the suffering of the Jews during the Holocaust to understand what drove people to harm others, and thus created his Milgram experiment. He also taught at prestigious institutes such as Harvard and Yale. His studies also included the six degrees of separation concept.

 7 
Talcott Parsons
(Sociologist)
Talcott Parsons
4
Birthdate: December 13, 1902
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States
Died: May 8, 1979

Talcott Parsons was an American sociologist best remembered for his structural functionalism and social action theory. Widely regarded as one of the 20th century's most influential and important figures in sociology, Parsons played a key role in the establishment of Harvard's Department of Social Relations. He is also credited with mentoring many international scholars like Alain Touraine and Ralf Dahrendorf.

 8 
Alva Belmont
(socialite)
Alva Belmont
3
Birthdate: January 17, 1853
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Mobile, Alabama, United States
Died: January 26, 1933

Alva Belmont was an American socialite who played a major role in the women's suffrage movement in the United States of America. Remembered for her intelligence, energy, and strong opinions, Belmont is credited with founding the Political Equality League which aimed at promoting suffrage-supporting politicians. Alva Belmont is also credited with co-founding the National Woman's Party in 1916.

 9 
C. Wright Mills
(Sociologist)
C. Wright Mills
4
Birthdate: August 28, 1916
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Waco
Died: March 20, 1962

C. Wright Mills was an American sociologist who served as a professor at Columbia University from 1946 to 1962. Mills is credited with writing influential books like The Sociological Imagination. His work inspired several future sociologists like Stanley Cohen, Tom Hayden, and Teodor Shanin. The C. Wright Mills Award, which is given annually, was established in his honor.

 10 
Clifford Geertz
(Anthropologist, University teacher, Sociologist)
Clifford Geertz
3
Birthdate: August 23, 1926
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: San Francisco
Died: October 30, 2006

Clifford Geertz was an anthropologist who strongly supported and influenced the practice of symbolic anthropology. He attended Harvard University, where he completed an interdisciplinary program. He then embarked on an academic career and wrote several theoretical pieces and essays on symbolic anthropology. He has left a strong influence on modern anthropology and communication studies. 

 11 
Fredric Jameson
(Essayist, Political scientist, Writer, Professor, Literary critic, Sociologist, Journalist)
Fredric Jameson
3
Birthdate: April 14, 1934
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Cleveland

Fredric Jameson is an American philosopher, literary critic, and Marxist political theorist. Jameson is renowned for his analysis of capitalism and postmodernity. He is credited with authoring influential books like The Political Unconscious and Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. In 2012, Fredric Jameson was honored with the Lifetime Scholarly Achievement Award by the Modern Language Association.

 12 
Gregory Bateson
(Anthropologist, Philosopher, Sociologist, Psychologist)
Gregory Bateson
3
Birthdate: May 9, 1904
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Grantchester
Died: June 11, 1980

Gregory Bateson was an English anthropologist, social scientist, linguist, and visual anthropologist. Along with his colleagues, he developed the double-bind theory of schizophrenia. Also a cyberneticist, he was part of the core group of the Macy Conferences in Cybernetics. He was a member of philosopher William Irwin Thompson's esoteric nonprofit foundation Lindisfarne Association.  

 13 
Immanuel Wallerstein
(Economist, Geopolitician, Economic historian, Historian, Political scientist, Writer, Sociologist, University teacher)
Immanuel Wallerstein
3
Birthdate: September 28, 1930
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: New York City

Sociologist, author, and economic historian Immanuel Wallerstein is best remembered for his iconic work The Modern World System, which was the first volume of his world-system theory. He was a Yale researcher and had first been driven to understand world history when he read up about the anticolonial movement in India.

 14 
Ruth Benedict
(Anthropologist, Folklorist, University teacher, Poet, Sociologist, Biographer)
Ruth Benedict
5
Birthdate: June 5, 1887
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: New York City
Died: September 17, 1948

Ruth Benedict was an American folklorist and anthropologist. Benedict, who played an important role in the American Folklore Society, also served as the American Anthropological Association's president; the association gives away an annual prize named after Ruth Benedict. In 2005, she was made an inductee of the National Women's Hall of Fame.

 15 
Lewis Hine
(American Sociologist and Muckraker Photographer Best Known for the Documentary Images of Child Labor Practices)
Lewis Hine
3
Birthdate: September 26, 1874
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Oshkosh, Wisconsin, United States
Died: November 3, 1940

Lewis Hine was an American photographer and sociologist. Hine's photographs played a key role in the passage of the child labor laws in the USA. He worked with non-profit organizations like Russell Sage Foundation and National Child Labor Committee and captured the plight of several child laborers in the steel-making districts. These photographs helped enact the first child labor laws.

 16 
Christopher Lasch
(Historian, Social critic, Writer, Sociologist, Journalist)
Christopher Lasch
3
Birthdate: June 1, 1932
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Omaha
Died: February 14, 1994

Christopher Lasch was an American historian, social critic, and moralist. He served as a professor at the University of Rochester. Christopher Lasch is best remembered for his books that aimed at using history as a tool to help Americans realize the independence and competence of families and communities. His best-selling book The Culture of Narcissism won the National Book Award.

 17 
Lewis Mumford
(Architect, Historian of technology, Historian, Sociologist, Screenwriter, Literary critic, Philosopher, Journalist)
Lewis Mumford
3
Birthdate: October 19, 1895
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: New York City
Died: January 26, 1990

Lewis Mumford was an American sociologist, historian, literary critic, and philosopher of technology. He made significant contributions to American literary and cultural history, social philosophy, and the history of technology. His works also influenced a number of thinkers and authors like Jacques Ellul and Amory Lovins. Lewis Mumford also had a strong influence on American cellular biologist Barry Commoner.

 18 
Shelby Steele
(Journalist)
Shelby Steele
6
Birthdate: January 1, 1946
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, U.S.

Shelby Steele is an American writer and documentary filmmaker who specializes in the study of multiculturalism and race relations. In 1990, his book The Content of Our Character earned him the National Book Critics Circle Award. In 1991, he won the Emmy Award for his documentary Seven Days in Bensonhurst. In 2004, Steele won the National Medal of the Humanities.

 19 
Patricia Hill Collins
(Philosopher, Sociologist, University teacher, American Sociological Association Distinguished Scholarly Book Award)
Patricia Hill Collins
3
Birthdate: May 1, 1948
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Philadelphia
 20 
William Julius Wilson
(Sociologist, University teacher, Professor, Writer)
William Julius Wilson
2
Birthdate: December 20, 1935
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Pennsylvania
 21 
Ted Nelson
(American Pioneer of Information Technology, Philosopher, and Sociologist)
Ted Nelson
3
Birthdate: June 17, 1937
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Ted Nelson is an American sociologist and philosopher. A pioneer of information technology, Nelson coined the terms hypermedia and hypertext in 1963. He is also credited with coining several new words, including transclusion, intertwingularity, and virtuality. In 1960, he founded Project Xanadu in an attempt to create a computer network with an unambiguous user interface.

 22 
Carol Gilligan
(Psychologist, Philosopher, Non-fiction writer, Sociologist, Feminist)
Carol Gilligan
5
Birthdate: November 28, 1936
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: New York City

Carol Gilligan is an American psychologist, ethicist, and feminist. She is renowned for her work on ethical relationships and ethical community. She also serves as a professor of Applied Psychology and Humanities at New York University. Considered the chief architect of the ethics of care, Gilligan was named in the 25 most influential people list by Time magazine in 1996.

 23 
Edward T. Hall
(Anthropologist, Sociologist, University teacher)
Edward T. Hall
3
Birthdate: May 16, 1914
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Webster Groves
Died: July 20, 2009

Edward T. Hall was an anthropologist and cross-cultural researcher best known for developing the concepts of proxemics, monochronic time, and polychronic time. He explored cultural and social cohesion in his research and described how people behave and react in different types of culturally defined personal space. Hall was a colleague of philosopher Marshall McLuhan and architect Buckminster Fuller. 

 24 
Peter L. Berger
(Sociologist, Theologian, University teacher)
Peter L. Berger
5
Birthdate: March 17, 1929
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Vienna

Born in Austria, Peter L. Berger initially moved to Palestine and eventually to the U.S. after World War II. While aspiring to be a Lutheran minister, he ended up being a sociologist. He taught at various institutes, such as Boston University, and penned the iconic book The Social Construction of Reality.

 25 
Pitirim Sorokin
(Sociologist and Political Activist)
Pitirim Sorokin
3
Birthdate: January 21, 1889
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: nyazhpogostsky District, Russia
Died: February 10, 1968

Pitirim Sorokin was a Russian-American political activist and sociologist best remembered for his immense contribution to the social cycle theory. His life and work have played an influential role in the life of popular American historian and scholar, Allan Carlson. Among other prominent personalities who have been influenced by Sorokin's work is American politician and 48th Vice President Michael Pence.

 26 
David McClelland
(Psychologist, University teacher, Sociologist)
David McClelland
3
Birthdate: May 20, 1917
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Mount Vernon
Died: March 27, 1998
 27 
Daniel Bell
(Sociologist, Writer, University teacher, Journalist)
Daniel Bell
3
Birthdate: May 10, 1919
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: New York City
Died: January 25, 2011
 28 
Jeremy Rifkin
(Economist, Sociologist, Writer, Prospectivist, University teacher)
Jeremy Rifkin
3
Birthdate: January 26, 1945
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Denver

Jeremy Rifkin is an American social and economic theorist, public speaker, writer, activist, and political advisor. Rifkin is credited with authoring several influential books on the impact of technological and scientific changes on the economy, the environment, and society. He is also regarded as the founding father of the Third Industrial Revolution.

 29 
James Samuel Coleman
2
Birthdate: May 12, 1926
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Bedford, Indiana, United States
Died: March 25, 1995
 30 
Charles Tilly
(Historian, Political scientist, Sociologist, University teacher)
Charles Tilly
3
Birthdate: May 27, 1929
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Lombard
Died: April 29, 2008

Hailed by many as the founding father of 21st-century sociology, Charles Tilly was not only a revered sociologist, but also an influential political scientist and historian. Considered a major figure in the development of historical sociology, he published numerous books, monographs and scholarly articles, providing an insight into urban sociology, European nation-state formation, democracy, social movements, labor, and categorical inequalities

 31 
Kenneth Burke
(Philosopher, Literary critic, University teacher, Sociologist, Journalist, Writer)
Kenneth Burke
3
Birthdate: May 5, 1897
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Pittsburgh
Died: November 19, 1993
 32 
Seymour Martin Lipset
(Sociologist, Political scientist)
Seymour Martin Lipset
2
Birthdate: March 18, 1922
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Harlem, New York, United States
Died: December 31, 2006
 33 
Saskia Sassen
(Sociologist)
Saskia Sassen
5
Birthdate: January 5, 1947
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: The Hague, Netherlands

Apart from teaching sociology at Columbia University and LSE, sociologist Saskia Sassen has also devoted over 3 decades of her life to research. She introduced the term global city. The daughter of a Dutch Nazi journalist, she grew up in Argentina and Italy, before studying in France.

 34 
Lester Frank Ward
(American Paleontologist, Botanist, and Sociologist Who Promoted Bringing Sociology Courses Into the Higher Education System in America)
Lester Frank Ward
2
Birthdate: June 18, 1841
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Joliet, Illinois, United States
Died: April 18, 1913

Lester Frank Ward was an American paleontologist, botanist, and sociologist. He is best remembered for his service as the American Sociological Association's first president. Lester Frank Ward played an important role in bringing Sociology courses into the higher education system in America. 

 35 
Chester Barnard
(Business Executive)
Chester Barnard
3
Birthdate: November 7, 1886
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Malden, Massachusetts, United States
Died: June 7, 1961
 36 
Herbert Blumer
(Sociologist)
Herbert Blumer
3
Birthdate: March 7, 1900
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: St. Louis, Missouri, United States
Died: April 13, 1987
 37 
E. Franklin Frazier
(American sociologist)
E. Franklin Frazier
1
Birthdate: September 24, 1894
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Baltimore, Maryland, United States
Died: May 17, 1962
 38 
Daniel J. Boorstin
(Librarian, Historian, Writer, Sociologist, Lawyer, Biographer)
Daniel J. Boorstin
2
Birthdate: October 1, 1914
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Atlanta
Died: February 28, 2004

Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and University of Chicago professor Daniel J. Boorstin is best known for his three-volume history of American civilization, The Americans. Born to a lawyer father, Daniel J. Boorstin studied law at Harvard and had also been a communist in his youth. He also held 20 honorary degrees.

 39 
Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick
(Academic Scholar)
Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick
5
Birthdate: May 2, 1950
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Dayton, Ohio, U.S.
Died: April 12, 2009
 40 
Edwin Sutherland
(Sociologist)
Edwin Sutherland
2
Birthdate: August 13, 1883
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Gibbon, Nebraska, U.S
Died: October 11, 1950
 41 
Harry Edwards
(Sociologist)
Harry Edwards
0
Birthdate: November 22, 1942
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: East St. Louis, Illinois, United States
 42 
Alfred Schütz
(Austrian Philosopher and Social Phenomenologist Whose Work Bridged Sociological and Phenomenological Traditions)
Alfred Schütz
2
Birthdate: April 13, 1899
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Vienna, Austria
Died: May 20, 1959

Alfred Schutz was an Austrian philosopher and social phenomenologist. He is recognized as one of the leading philosophers of social science in the 20th century. A lawyer by qualification, he had a prominent career in international banking and did academic work in his spare time. Philosopher Edmund Husserl described him as “a banker by day and a philosopher by night.” 

 43 
Harold Garfinkel
(Former Sociologist known for establishing and developing ethnomethodology as a field of inquiry in sociology)
Harold Garfinkel
2
Birthdate: October 29, 1917
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Newark, New Jersey, United States
Died: April 21, 2011
 44 
Amitai Etzioni
(Sociologist)
Amitai Etzioni
2
Birthdate: January 4, 1929
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Cologne, Germany
 45 
Mancur Olson
(Economist, Political scientist, University teacher, Sociologist)
Mancur Olson
2
Birthdate: January 22, 1932
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Grand Forks
Died: February 19, 1998
 46 
David Riesman
(Sociologist, Lawyer, University teacher, Writer)
David Riesman
2
Birthdate: September 22, 1909
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Philadelphia
Died: May 10, 2002
 47 
Paul Watzlawick
(Philosopher, Psychologist, Psychotherapist, Sociologist, University teacher, Non-fiction writer, Communication scholar)
Paul Watzlawick
3
Birthdate: July 25, 1921
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Villach
Died: March 31, 2007

Paul Watzlawick was an Austrian-American psychologist and philosopher, specializing in family therapy and communication theory. The most influential figure in the Palo Alto Mental Research Institute, he worked extensively on how communication is effected within families and proposed Interactional View Theory. Paul Watzlawick authored 22 books and more than 150 articles and book chapters. His books have been translated into 80 languages

 48 
Siegfried Kracauer
2
Birthdate: February 8, 1889
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Frankfurt, Germany
Died: November 26, 1966
 49 
Dell Hymes
(One of the First Sociolinguists to Pioneer the Connection Between Speech and Social Relations)
Dell Hymes
2
Birthdate: June 7, 1927
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Portland, Oregon, United States
Died: November 13, 2009

Dell Hymes was part of some of the pioneering studies on linguistic anthropology and sociolinguistics, and later focused on ethnopoetics and the SPEAKING model. He also founded the journal Language in Society and served as its editor. In his later career, he was accused of sexual harassment.

 50 
James Q. Wilson
(Academic)
James Q. Wilson
2
Birthdate: May 27, 1931
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Denver, Colorado, United States
Died: March 2, 2012