First Steps toward
Effects of the War and
Its Aftermath on Medical Sociology
The substantial intellectual and methodological foundations for a sociology of medicine that had accumulated by 1940 did not immediately spawn an identifiable special field. Even the name “medical sociology, ” in spite of its appearance at the end of the nineteenth century, 1 disappeared, and exactly when it surfaced again is obscure. Nevertheless, the subject matter began to be taught, in the thirties by Bernhard Stern at Columbia, in the early 1940s at the University of Chicago by Everett Hughes and by Leo Simmons at Yale. 2 Research on medical problems was part of the generally enhanced role of sociologists in the Second World War, and several of the field's outstanding pioneers trace their entry into medical sociology to wartime research. 3
Development in the postwar years began slowly until formal organization as a subspecialty began in 1955 with an ad hoc group called the Committee on Medical Sociology of the ASA. 4 Despite the prominent role of sociology in the war—in the Research Branch of the army's Information and Education Division under Samuel A. Stouffer, in the War Relocation Authority and the Foreign Morale Analysis Division under Alexander Leighton, in the Wartime Communications Research Project under Harold D. Lasswell, and in the Foreign Broadcast Monitoring Service run by Hadley Cantril—the first steps were very modest, even uncertain. When the war ended, almost all the social science research programs of the government were disbanded. 5 The researchers themselves returned to the universities, and included among them were those who would be the future pioneers of medical sociology.
Yet by 1965 medical sociology had become one of sociology's most active subspecialties, and it continues to be so today. The Medical Sociology Section of the ASA averages close to eleven hundred members, one of the largest numbers of