Nebraska Moments

By Donald R. Hickey; Susan A. Wunder et al. | Go to book overview

27. The Pound Family

In 1925 Dr. Louise Pound decided to do something no one else had ever done before. This was not too unexpected as she had been surprising Nebraskans and many others since her birth in 1872. She founded a professional journal, American Speech, that explored phonetics, the history of language, and folklore. Her work transformed the teaching of English, and it turned quaint specialties that attracted dabblers into legitimate fields for serious-minded scholars. According to critic H. L. Mencken, Louise Pound’s “work and that of her students put the study of American English on its legs.” It would not be the last of her many contributions.

Of course, Louise was not alone in the pursuit of knowledge in the Pound family. While she was pursuing a new linguistics research path, her older brother Roscoe was completely altering the legal world. By 1925 Dr. Roscoe Pound, who received a PhD in botany and a law degree, resided in Boston, where he had become dean of Harvard University’s College of Law. He invented the term “sociological jurisprudence,” a revolutionary legal concept that required judges to take into consideration information and materials, such as government statistics, treatises, and psychological and economic data, in the making of legal decisions. This new jurisprudential approach was called legal realism, and it took the place of the old legal formalism that emphasized procedure rather than the substance of legal disputes. Legal formalism had dominated American courts and American legal education prior to Roscoe’s discovery. The year after Louise’s journal made its first appearance, Roscoe published his second law book, an eye-opening exposé, Criminal Justice in America (1926), that provoked national debate. Roscoe would have a very distinguished legal career.

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