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Academics gone wild: how social scientists tried a major step up at Harvard

Professional envy can make people do some things they might not be proud of later. Faculty members at Harvard University in the 1940s wanted to elevate the social sciences to a status on par with the university's big three: economics, government, and history.

The result was the creation of a Department of Social Relations, which attracted outstanding faculty, trained many graduates, and performed a lot of notable research. Some of it is now out of favor, like Timothy Leary's experiments with hallucinogenic drugs.

Graduate Patrick Schmidt tells the story in his book Harvard's Quixotic Pursuit of a New Science: The Rise and Fall of the Department of Social Relations.

We get the picture on the creation of the department, and hear the tales of its undoing.

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The Jefferson Exchange is Jefferson Public Radio's daily talk show focused on news and interests across our region of Southern Oregon and Northern California. Angela Decker is the senior producer, Charlie Zimmermann is the assistant producer, and Geoffrey Riley hosts the show.