John William Burgess

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John William Burgess

Birthdate: (87)
Birthplace: Cornersville, Tennessee
Death: 1931 (86)
Immediate Family:

Son of Thomas T. Burgess and Mary J. Edwards
Husband of Ruth Payne Burgess
Father of Private
Brother of John William Burgess

Managed by: Private User
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Immediate Family

About John William Burgess

John William Burgess (August 26, 1844 – January 13, 1931) was a pioneering American political scientist. He spent most of his career at Columbia University and is regarded as having been "the most influential political scientist of the period.

Burgess was born in Tennessee and fought for the Union in the American Civil War. He studied history at Amherst College, graduating in 1867, then at the universities of Göttingen, Leipzig, and Berlin for a number of years, where he studied under distinguished German scholars of the time: the historian Johann Gustav Droysen, the economist Wilhelm Roscher, the historian Theodor Mommsen, whose linking history with law strongly influenced Burgess's own approach, and Rudolf von Gneist. He was much influenced by the training in research methods characteristic of German universities of the time. He sought to import these methods of research and scholarship, first to Amherst (unsuccessfully) and later to Columbia. He maintained a lifelong interest in German-American relations.

In 1876, Burgess was appointed to a professorship in the Law School of what later became Columbia University, a post he held until his 1912 retirement. While at Columbia, Burgess taught constitutional law but more importantly, was instrumental in founding the discipline of political science in the USA. In 1886, he founded the Political Science Quarterly. He was instrumental in establishing the Faculty of Political Science, the first major institutionalized program in the United States granting the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, and was a member of the Dunning School of Reconstruction. These endeavors have led to his being widely regarded as one of the founders of modern political science.

For years, he was memorialized on the Columbia campus with the designation of the "Burgess-Carpenter Classics Library" within Butler Library.

Books by Burgess

1890: Political Science and Comparative Constitutional Law

1897: The Middle Period, 1817-1858

1901: The Civil War and the Constitution, 1859-1865

1902: Reconstruction and the Constitution 1866-1876

1915: The European War of 1914 - Its Causes Purposes and Probable Results

1915: The Reconciliation of Government with Liberty

1923: Recent Changes in American Constitutional Theory

According to Leon Epstein, Burgess was a leading academic figure in the last decades of the nineteenth century, but some of his influence was considered negative (due to his advocation of formalism as it applied to politics and governance) and he caused somewhat of an intellectual rebellion at Columbia. Leon Epstein, 1986. Political Parties in the American Mold. University of Wisconsin Press.

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John William Burgess's Timeline

August 26, 1844
Cornersville, Tennessee
Age 22
Graduated from Amherst College with Ph.D. & LL.D.
- 1871
Age 24
Professor of English Literature and Political Economy at Knox College
- 1876
Age 28
Professor of history and political science at Amherst College
Age 30
Professor of law at Columbia University, New York, New York
Age 86
Attended Cumberland University, Lebanon, Tennessee