THE FACULTY OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
I t was in his dealings with the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) that Conant's attempt to create a more meritocratic Harvard met its severest test. Out of this often tumultuous relationship came one of Harvard's most influential academic innovations: a system for the appointment of tenured faculty that became standard practice in American universities.
Conant inherited a faculty that was not necessarily the nation's best. Because of Lowell's stress on undergraduate instruction, the number and proportion of tutors and instructors steadily increased during the 1920s. At the same time, many of the best known Harvard professors during the Lowell years—Charles Townsend “Copey” Copeland and LeBaron Russell Briggs of the English Department, Roger B. “Frisky” Merriman in History—were not world-class scholars but charismatic classroom performers. Harvard had only one Nobelist, Conant's chemist father-inlaw, Theodore W. Richards, before 1934; Chicago had three. Nor did its social scientists compare to those at Chicago or Columbia. The rather small stable of Harvard's scholarly stars included historian Frederick Jackson Turner and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, whose major accomplishments, done elsewhere, were long behind them. Carnegie Corporation president Frederick Keppel reported the prevailing view in 1934: “Harvard is still princeps but no longer facile princeps; and the story is current that at one of America's great universities [no doubt Chicago] it is considered the height of academic distinction to receive an invitation from Harvard and to decline it.” Conant warned early on that the growing appeal of other universities and Harvard's standardized salary, teaching, and research scales made it “increasingly difficult to