Lynd, Robert Staughton

Robert Staughton Lynd (September 26, 1892 – November 1, 1970) was an American sociologist and professor at Columbia University, New York City.[1] Robert and his wife Helen Lynd are best known for writing the groundbreaking "Middletown" studies of Muncie, Indiana - Middletown: A Study in Contemporary American Culture (1929) and Middletown in Transition (1937),[2] which are classics of American sociology. Muncie was the first community to be systematically examined by sociologists in the United States.


Born in New Albany, Indiana in 1892, Lynd attended college at Princeton University from 1910 to 1914, where he earned an A.B. degree. In the years 1919, 1920, 1921 and 1933 he attended classes at the New School for Social Research. From September 1920 to 1923 he attended the Union Theological Seminary in New York, receiving a Degree of Bachelor of Divinity in 1923. And from 1921 to 1931 intermittently he attended college at the Columbia University, where he received a PhD in sociology in 1931 using an abridged version of Middletown as his dissertation.[3]

In 1914 he had started working as editor at Publishers Weekly in New York. In the year 1918-19 he served in the US Army Field Artillery, and afterwards he held a position as advertising manager at the book department of Charles Scribner's Sons for about a year. In 1922 for summer preaching assignments he worked as chaplain in Elk Basin, Wyoming, at a Rockefeller oil camp. Afterwards Lynd wrote the article "Done in Oil" as an expose of the conditions there. This publication and his community work brought Lynd to the attention of the Rockefeller family and resulted in his being hired for the Middletown community study by the Rockefeller Institute of Social and Religious Research.[4]

After his study at the Union Theological Seminary, from 1923 to 1926 he was director of Small City Studies at the Institute for Social and Religious Studies. In 1925 he had spend several months in Muncie, Indiana. In 1926 he was employed as by the Social Science Research Council, a first year as research supervisor and an other 4 years as Secretary of the Council. From July, 1931 to June, 1942, he held the position of Professor of Sociology at the Columbia University.[3] Lynd was member of a number of scientific societies in the field of sociological anthropology and economics, such as the AAAS, the American Social Society, American Statistics Society and American Economics Association.[3]

Robert Staughton Lynd was married to Helen Lynd in 1921, and they had two children. The eldest was Staughton Lynd, a lawyer and historian noted for anti-war, civil rights and community activism.


  • 1922, "Crude Oil Religion," in: Harpers, CXLV (September, 1922), pp. 425–34
  • 1922, "Done in Oil," in: Survey, XLIX (November 1, 1922), pp. 136–46
  • 1929, Middletown: A Study in Contemporary American Culture
  • 1934, Vol. 173, The Ultimate Consumer. A Study in Economic Illiteracy (May, 1934), pp. 1-6
  • 1937, Middletown in Transition
  • 1939, Knowledge for What? The Place of the Social Sciences in American Culture, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press


External links

  • "Series 1 - Robert & Helen Lynd", Staughton Lynd Collection, Kent State University
  • Middletown Studies Collection and Digital Archives, Ball State University Archives and Special Collections Research Center
  • FBI file on Robert Lynd

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