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Art Stinchcombe, Professor Emeritus and Legendary Sociologist, Dies at 85

July 9, 2018

We are saddened to report that Arthur L. Stinchcombe passed away on July 3, 2018 at the age of 85. Formerly the John Evans Professor of Sociology until his retirement in 1995, Stinchcombe maintained an active presence on campus as an emeritus faculty member for many years until recently, when his health no longer permitted it. The family plans a public memorial at a later date, and details will be provided when available.

Professor Stinchcombe was a leading social scientist of his generation and one of the most renowned scholars of economic sociology, organization theory, comparative and historical sociology, and the sociology of law in the history of sociology.  His accolades were noteworthy: he was a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences, and a Guggenheim Fellow. He received a series of awards from the American Sociological Association, including the Distinguished Career Prize, the Sorokin Prize, the Max Weber Award for Distinguished Scholarship, and the Lazarsfeld Award for career contributions to methodology. In 2017, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Bergen. He was the author of 13 books, including the influential volumes Constructing Social Theories (1968), Theoretical Methods in Social History (1978), Crime and Punishment: Changing Attitudes in America (1980), and When Formality Works: Authority and Abstraction in Law and Organizations (2001).

Art Stinchcombe was born in 1933 in Clare County, Michigan. After earning his PhD in sociology from the University of California-Berkeley in 1960, he taught at Johns Hopkins, Berkeley (where he served as department chair), the University of Chicago, and the University of Arizona, before coming to Northwestern. He also held visiting appointments in Chile, England, the Netherlands, Norway, and Australia, and at the Stanford School of Business. At Northwestern, Stinchcombe was a professor of sociology, political science and organizational behavior before his appointment as the John Evans Professor of Sociology.

Art is remembered for his towering intellect, his analytic clarity about theoretical and methodological questions, his encyclopedic knowledge of the social sciences, and his intellectual generosity. In his straightforward fashion, Art declared on his departmental webpage in recent years: “He welcomes the chance to comment on student papers, which sometimes scares the students, but sometimes improves their papers. You usually can find him in his carrel in the library. He is old.”

Our thoughts and sympathies go to Art’s wife and longtime collaborator Carol Heimer (currently Professor of Sociology at Northwestern and Research Professor at the American Bar Foundation),  their children, Kai Stinchcombe and Clare Heimer, and his children from his marriage to Barbara Bifoss Stinchcombe, Max, Amy, Adam, and Kirk Stinchcombe.  Back to top