Making Harvard Modern: The Rise of America's University

By Morton Keller; Phyllis Keller | Go to book overview

10
THE ASCENDANT FACULTY

T he most substantial legatee of Harvard's new affluence was the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. These were years of heady growth in that body's numbers, salary, perks, and power. It is not surprising that many professors later looked back wistfully to a Golden Age stretching from the late 1940s to the late 1960s.

When Pusey arrived in 1953, nearly half of the 448 members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences had Harvard Ph.D.s. But the old Harvard habit of promoting from within was declining. Of 68 senior appointments between 1953 and 1957, more than half came from other schools; only six had come up through the College, the Harvard Graduate School, and the junior faculty. Harvard College graduates, 25 to 30 percent of the faculty in the Conant era, dropped to 5 to 10 percent in the Pusey years. Meritocracy had come into its own. 1


The Faculty Triumphant

Dean of the Faculty McGeorge Bundy, in office from 1953 until 1961, presided over the ascendancy of the professoriat. He was deeply committed to the meritocratic ideal of a faculty made up of the best and the brightest. He closely tracked the present state and future prospects of the Arts and Sciences departments. Biology worried him: it was a large department dominated by men in their fifties and sixties, “whose center of gravity is toward traditional taxonomy and the fulfillment of the great nineteenth century prospects of biology, rather than toward the new and growing subjects of a biochemical and biophysical character.” It divided into “the traditionalists, the neutralists, and a small fighting group of modernists…. The modernists are outnumbered, but it is my strong impression that they are our most promising and significant

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