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Scholars, Private Lives of

Barbara Louis, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA

Thilo Neidhöfer, Johannes Kepler University of Linz, Linz, Austria
Ó 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Private lives of scholars have received some attention by researchers, which is reflected in a still modest but growing body of
literature. Traditionally biographies of great men have provided insights into the personal lives of protagonists predomi-
nantly as background information for their professional enterprises. Feminist historiography pointed out the interrelatedness
of private and professional spheres as well as the productive roles of women in scientific collaboration. This article will
discuss collaborative couples and antinepotism rules in academia as two rather well-researched areas and point out avenues
for further research, also taking cues from the history of the natural sciences.

Private lives of scholars in the social and behavioral sciences is scientists to round out narratives of their professional lives,
an understudied topic and remains wide open for research. historians have recently cast a more analytical and productive
Until recently authors typically focused on one person, usually glance at the intersection of private and professional lives. As
a man, and concentrated their accounts on the protagonist’s Donald Opitz pointed out, explorations of the private realm
work. Biographies of great men frequently portrayed the female as a site of knowledge production informing scientific
partners, if mentioned at all, as secondary, for instance in their endeavors have led to new interpretations of the work of scien-
roles of caring and supporting wives or assistants. Although tists such as Galileo Galilei, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and
literature on collaborative couples in the sciences is widely Louis Pasteur by revealing the psychological, personal, and
available, many of these books can be categorized as popular social influences on their scientific work (Opitz in Lykknes
science accounts. While such works often pose claims of histor- et al., 2012, p. 249). This is linked to an understanding of
ical accuracy, they use the private lives, especially the marriages science as a social and cultural activity and an interest in the
and partnerships, as a literary tool to thrill readers, and in doing dynamics of scientific practice rather than a focus on the
so, often reproduce outdated views on gender relations. For successful outcomes only. This article surveys work on two
instance, they point out the asymmetry between the man as aspects of private lives of scholars that have received attention
creative and active and the woman as supportive and assisting, by historians: first, familial arrangements and collaborative
or they emphasize distinct spheres of action for men in the couples and, second, antinepotism rules in academia and their
public and women in the private realm. consequences. While the focus is on the social and behavioral
Historians of science, however, have shown that private and sciences, examples from other disciplines serve as models for
professional spheres are inseparable, and furthermore that future research.
“domestic arrangements are part of the culture of science”
(Schiebinger, 1999, p. 188). Historians have also come to
understand science both as a social practice and a collaborative Familial Arrangements and Collaborative Couples
effort. As a consequence, research has expanded from focusing
on the lone genius or the big man of science to include women, The roles of family members, particularly wives, in scientific
assistants, family members, and lay persons. It sought to iden- activities were at the center of historians’ attention, as they
tify the actors involved and to appraise their contributions to started to investigate the roles and activities of various actors
the production of knowledge and to the scientific enterprise in scientific collaboration. A long-standing perception based
more generally. As historians have conceptualized gender as predominantly on published records and a historiography
a social construct and historical category and originally focused focused on big men of science held that, if wives were involved
mostly on women, feminist historiography was initially dedi- in their husbands’ work at all, they served as secretaries or assis-
cated to including women in historical accounts and restoring tants, or provided a comfortable and undisturbed atmosphere
them to their deserved historical place. Taken to the extreme, for his scientific work. As historians of science such as Sally
however, one-sided approaches risked to create accounts of Gregory Kohlstedt and Margaret Rossiter explored the ways in
great women (Eckstein, 1996; Chiu, 2008). Thus, gender has which women were involved in scientific work, they revealed
been increasingly conceptualized as an analytical tool to that women played more manifold and substantial roles in
explore the relational character of the concept and the the production, communication, and application of scientific
ways in which meanings of gender are constructed, which knowledge than previous literature had suggested (Kohlstedt,
results in attempts to consider both genders equally (Scott, 1999; Rossiter, 1982, 1995, 2012). The range of capacities in
1986, 2010). which women were involved in scientific pursuits include,
Much of the work on private lives of scholars refers to but are not limited to, researcher, research assistant, coauthor,
natural scientists. While traditional biographies of big men of editor, discussion partner, critic, typewriter, secretary, manager,
science used details of private events and everyday life of fund-raiser, public relations organizer, and all the tasks

34 International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, 2nd edition, Volume 21
Scholars, Private Lives of 35

connected to running a household, taking care of the family, on the understudied but rewarding topic of private lives of
and being a friend and romantic partner. While this research scholars. His research also cautions not to anachronistically
focused on the natural sciences, some social and behavioral accept the boundaries of present-day disciplines or
scientists were included. About the same time, social academia more generally as a frame for analysis. Showing
scientists started to uncover women’s spheres of action in and how particularly the women were active in social
contributions to their own disciplines (Deegan, 1991; Laslett movements outside the academic realm and collaborated
and Thorne, 1997; Silverberg, 1998). on what is now understood as the husbands’ work suggests
In order to interrogate systematically the intersection of that a wider angle on scholarly activity has the potential to
private and professional lives, scientific couples became provide more comprehensive and nuanced insights not only
a productive unit of analysis that allowed the exploration of into personal lives, but into the creation and application of
scientific collaboration by taking seriously the contributions knowledge.
of both partners in their joint endeavors. The seminal publica- Eileen Yeo’s analysis of the Webbs, the Bosanquets, and the
tion Creative Couples in the Sciences, edited by Pycior et al. Branfords, three social science couples in Great Britain at the
(1996), probed cross-gender collaboration for different turn of the twentieth century also delineates different models
variants of collaboration and aimed at restoring women to of intellectual collaboration and married life (Yeo in Lykknes
the historical record, while neglecting, as Opitz et al. have et al., 2012). This examination of the gendered division of
argued, to explore “how collaboration – or, in its own case, labor in these marriages exemplifies diverse arrangements
degrees of collaboration – might be historicized and ranging from a traditional constellation with the man doing
explained as products of partners’ agency within particular, intellectual social science work and the woman being more
local contexts” (Opitz et al. in Lykknes et al., 2012, p. 3). practically and social-action oriented to reversed gender
The recent follow-up book For Better or for Worse? (Lykknes roles. The husbands’ involvement in household issues also
et al., 2012) expanded the questions and analytical angles of varied. These examples highlight not only the different
Creative Couples. As it can serve as a model for how to possible arrangements of spousal collaboration and private
approach familial collaboration in the social and behavioral life, which call for more research. They also accentuate the
sciences and for private lives of scholars more generally, it importance of careful attention to the historical context that
offers strategies for further research by covering a wide range conditions the options available to the couples, for example,
of disciplines, geographical locations, time periods, and regarding contemporary gender roles and expectations but
actors, and by exploring a variety of modes of collaboration also regarding institutional structures of social science and
between couples. The contributions in this book ask how the practice. Furthermore, as the professionalization of the
meanings of gender roles were negotiated in relation to each social sciences in Great Britain with more extra-academic
other and how these meanings change over time and vary opportunities followed a different path than in the US
according to historical context. Such inquiry focuses less on where social science strove for academization and rigid
the outcomes and assessments of contributions, and more on objectivity in the early twentieth century, this context needs
processes by exploring the dynamics, negotiations, and to be taken into account in order to detect possible spheres
representations of collaboration. or action and configurations of professional and private
In For Better or for Worse? Per Wisselgren explored three lives. Moreover, these examples point to cross-country
social science couples in Sweden at the turn of the twentieth comparisons and transnational approaches as fruitful modes
century within the context of academization of the social of analysis.
sciences and found different types of collaboration that he sit- By and large the heterosexual married couple is the unit of
uated within ‘action spaces’ at the intersection of social analysis of scientific couples’ collaboration. In his study of the
reform and social sciences (Wisselgren in Lykknes et al., British socialist, philosopher, and activist Edward Carpenter,
2012, p. 196). With the husbands holding academic posts, Opitz transcended this common unit to explore the modes
Wisselgren found that the wives contributed to their work of collaboration of a homosexual couple. This analysis of an
in varying capacities and intensity, but also worked indepen- alternative to the normative heterosexual married couple
dently on projects of their own. As opposed to the limited and their social science and activism reveals that the practice
wives-as-assistant model, he identified three ideal types of and meaning of collaboration are historically contingent and
spousal collaboration. First, the ‘two roles model’ describes need to be carefully historicized within their social, cultural,
a mode of collaboration in which family and other kinds of and political contexts. In his example, therefore, Opitz sug-
work can be combined, with the family having priority. gested the term ‘cooperative comradeship’ to describe the
Second, in the ‘in the shadow of’ type, the wives’ interests mode of Carpenter’s domestic partnership and collaboration
are subordinate to the ones of their husbands. While wives with his partner George Merrill (Opitz in Lykknes et al.,
made significant contributions to the husbands’ work, they 2012, p. 246). Following Opitz’ lead to include same-sex
remained largely unacknowledged. Finally, the ‘separate collaboration in various domestic arrangements suggests
worlds’ model describes an arrangement in which the a variety of new research that not only expands the core
spouses pursue their own interests independently from each unit of analysis but through intersections with other
other (Wisselgren in Lykknes et al., 2012, p. 209). historiographical themes could add new perspectives on the
Wisselgren’s analysis broadens the scope of understanding lives and work of social and behavioral scientists. Even
spousal collaboration and the context in which modern though same-sex partnerships are often mentioned in
social sciences unfolded. It can serve as an example of passing, systematic explorations of the partners’ living and
the manifold avenues open for future research to shed light collaboration arrangements are pending. For example, the
36 Scholars, Private Lives of

sociologist Jessie Taft and her partner of 50 years, Virginia between family and professional lives. Moreover, gender
Robinson, substantially shaped the social work program at roles in society have been changing, leading to more
the University of Pennsylvania, but their lives and work egalitarian division of household responsibilities among
have not been systematically studied from a couple’s couples than in the past and potentially resulting in new
perspective. Furthermore, relationships do not necessarily configurations of lives and careers for both men and women
have to be lifelong commitments in order to be significant. (Slack in Lykknes et al., 2012).
They can be temporary or change character over time, as But even further back in history, a wider angle on collabora-
exemplified by Margaret Mead and Ruth Benedict, whose tion yields new and productive insights. Deborah Coen (2007)
personal and work relationship also invites further research. has shown in her study of the extended Exner family in fin-de-
While collaborative couples in the same discipline or closely siècle Vienna how private life, politics, and science intersected
related fields are prevalent in literature, cross-disciplinary and, in fact, exerted strong mutual influence. Coen detailed
couples may reveal different dynamics of living arrangements how the activities in the Exners’ semiprivate annual summer
and collaboration. The focus on same-disciplinary retreat in the countryside substantially influenced their scien-
collaboration is plausible and reflects both reality and tific thinking, which manifested itself in their works in fields
scholarly interest. On the one hand, many partners met as such as physics, meteorology, and ethology. While an extensive
students, or students and teachers, or colleagues in the same scientific dynasty like the Exners is rare, scientific families, even
department or field. On the other hand, researchers who are on a smaller scale, do invite further analysis. The Odum family
interested in a particular discipline are perhaps more prone comes to mind, with Howard W. Odum, a distinguished soci-
to select couples from this area (Handler, 2004). ologist, and his sons Howard T. and Eugene Odum, who
Looking across disciplinary boundaries, however, will very became two of the most eminent American ecologists of the
likely prove productive, since research at the intersection of twentieth century. The sons were lifelong collaborators and
disciplines can open a vantage point for studying cross- were at least motivated by their father’s sociological framework
fertilization of different fields, of different disciplinary and social activism, which begs the question of intergenera-
cultures, as well as their interactions. As historians of science tional transmission of (social) scientific thought, culture, and
have been interested in ideas and methods circulating and collaboration.
passing through various disciplines, being appropriated, In a recent study of the Swedish social scientists Alva and
modified, and put to use in new ways, a look at cross- Gunnar Myrdal, Thomas Etzemüller (2010) explored the
disciplinary collaboration may also help to shed light on profound entanglements and interdependencies of the Myr-
such dynamics. The lives and work of Louis Guttman, an dals’ private and professional lives. In their capacity as social
American mathematician and sociologist, and his wife, engineers in Sweden they understood their own personal
Austrian-born geneticist Ruth Halpern, serve as a case in lives as a role model for the modern, social democratic
point (Wurzinger, 2002). After World War II, the Guttmans society in whose reform they were involved. In their private
moved to Israel, where Louis established the Israel Institute lives, which they publicly displayed, they attempted to
of Applied Social Research. While Ruth continued her work demonstrate rationality, equality, and control of emotions,
in genetics, cancer research, and psychology, she also served which they envisioned as the main pillars of the reformed
as the senior scientist at her husband’s institute. Both applied Swedish society. The negotiations and conflicts between the
Facet Theory to their own research specialties, a concept spouses about equality, collaboration, and the tension
whose development is commonly attributed to Louis. Their between individual liberty and dedication to the shared lives
marriage and collaboration provides an opportunity to and work reflected the ambivalence of the larger process of
explore further their personal and professional roles as they modernization in society. This study of the Myrdals stands
pursued their own separate careers, but also collaborated, out as a model for exploring the intersection of the private
and shared a family life including three children. Coming and professional lives and inspires future research along
from the US and Europe, respectively, and building their similar lines.
careers in Israel, this example promises an exceptionally rich As in the past most scholars came from educated upper and
and complex constellation to study, not only because of their middle-class backgrounds, access to universities for larger
different disciplinary, social and cultural backgrounds, but parts of the population and policies like affirmative action in
also because they did so in unfamiliar terrain, which the United States, as well as efforts to increase the number of
potentially requires more intense and explicit reflexion and women and members of minorities in higher education have
negotiations than the native society where role expectations started to change the demographics of the social and
and social and professional arrangements are clearer. behavioral sciences. This development opens up an entire
Modifying the units of analysis can lead to innovative new new universe of experiences from different social and
research. After the solitary individual of the past, after looking cultural vantage points to explore how family life is
at couples, schools, and laboratory groups, more recently new organized and how personal and professional lives are
modes of communication, telecommuting, and increased negotiated, and to study further how scholarly work is
mobility of scholars has transformed collaboration. As Nancy negotiated, practiced, and presented. In the mid-twentieth
G. Slack pointed out, these changes are altering both private century, however, as large numbers of women graduated
and professional lives and are leading to more flexibility in from universities and sought employment at colleges and
collaboration of scholars in research networks without being universities, hiring policies guided by antinepotism rules
at the same place physically. Current-day technology and profoundly affected their lives and careers as the next section
mobility also open up new ways of organizing the balance explores.
Scholars, Private Lives of 37

Antinepotism Rules and Their Consequences highly qualified women particularly from the most prestigious
universities. A study by John Parrish, a professor of labor
Initially implemented to base academic appointments and economics at the University of Illinois, analyzing faculty
advancement on merit rather than on personal relationships, numbers by field and sex at the 20 leading universities in the
antinepotism regulations led to large-scale discrimination of United States in 1960 illustrates the gender-segregation at the
women in particular. Instead of holding full-fledged faculty top ranks of academia. In psychology 5 out of 184 full
positions as appropriate for their training and experience, professors (or 2.72%) were women (for the total including
many highly educated women found themselves relegated to lower ranks, i.e., assistant professors and above, 30 out of
low-rank, often unstable positions with little prestige and 416 faculty members were women, which is 7.21%). In
small salaries. These disadvantages predominantly affected sociology, all of 2 women could be found among a total of
the women themselves, but also bore consequences for their 108 full professors, which equals 1.85% (the total faculty was
families. A lower total family income is the obvious 259, out of whom 12 were women, which translates into
consequence, but the women’s positions were often 4.63%). The situation in economics was similar: The total of
temporary, geographically scattered, time-consuming, and 205 full professors included 4 women, or 1.95% (including
scheduled at inconvenient times. In addition to exploring the lower ranks: 16 out of 435, i.e., 3.68%). One woman held
effects of antinepotism rules on women’s careers, more a full professorship in anthropology vis-à-vis 46 men
research is needed on the consequences for the couples’ (2.17%), whereas the total faculty of 94 included 3 women,
relationships, for family life including children, for these i.e., 3.19%. Political science had 2 full female professors out
families’ social lives and networks. How did inferior and of 161 (1.24%) as opposed to 6 out of 336 (1.79%)
time-consuming jobs affect the fathers’ involvement in family including assistant professors and above. Finally, there was
life? What were the reactions of the husbands, who succeeded no woman among 44 full professors in geography, whereas
professionally at the cost of their wives’ careers while, at the one woman could be found in the total faculty sample of 97
same time, they valued their wives’ academic skills? (1.03%). (Parrish cited in Rossiter, 1995, p. 128ff.)
Cases of stalled or diverted careers because of antinepotism The women affected by antinepotism regulations turned to
rules in the United States are increasingly well documented, various strategies to deal with this discrimination. As one
even though this documentation and analysis remains far popular strategy, they took on assignments in different univer-
from exhaustive. One prominent example is the psychologist sity departments (if allowed) or lower-rank colleges in the
Else Frenkel-Brunswik, who is best known for her region. In doing so, they were at least able to work in the
coauthorship of The Authoriatian Personality. Since her field in which they were interested and trained. Some tried to
husband Egon Brunswik was a faculty member at the accumulate so many outside accolades that pressured
Department of Psychology at Berkeley, she could not obtain university administrations to hire or advance them, as it was
a tenured position at the same institution. Instead, the eventually the case with Beatrice Wright at the University of
University’s Institute of Child Welfare became her Kansas. Yet another strategy was not to marry at all during
institutional home, where she was hired as a research their active time as professionals, as did the archeologists
associate. In addition to maintaining a productive research Madeline Kneberg and Thomas Lewis (Rossiter, 1995, p. 125).
agenda, she taught courses at the Department of Psychology, Antinepotism rules did not entirely seal off women from
but without being accepted into the faculty. At the University positions in higher education, however. Particularly lower-
of Kansas, the renowned psychologist Beatrice Wright was rank and public colleges and universities, as well as newly
barred from teaching, because her husband was a faculty founded institutions tended to interpret the antinepotism
member. Her textbook on disability, however, was used in rules more generously than long-standing top-tier
the classes she was not allowed to teach. Not least because of universities. For example, both the sociologists Lewis and
Wright’s case, the University of Kansas reversed its policy and Rose Coser were offered professorships by the State
Wright could obtain a faculty position eventually (Rossiter, University of New York Stony Brook, while Luther and Jessie
1995, p. 141). The sociologist Caroline Baer Rose is another Bernard, also sociologists, were hired by Pennsylvania
prominent example of the effects of antinepotism rules on State University.
women in academia. She was married to Arnold Rose, By the early 1970s, more and more American universities
a sociologist at the University of Minnesota. Before they started to loosen or reverse their antinepotism rules, not least
moved to Minnesota in 1952, both had worked on the because these rules conflicted with affirmative action policies.
research and the manuscript of Myrdal’s An American While there are indications that nepotism restrictions continue
Dilemma. Even though the Roses collaborated throughout to exist at some colleges and universities, albeit in a more covert
their marriage and coauthored several books and articles, manner, it is the term ‘dual career couples’ that currently
Arnold’s position prevented Caroline from becoming garners attention. Academic couples still often fail in their
a faculty member at the Department of Sociology. Thus, she attempt to find appropriate positions for both partners in the
held a temporary position in a small college, worked on high same institution or even geographical region, and it is still
school curricula, taught correspondence courses, and found mostly the women who cannot attain their professional goals.
other ways of employment at the University. She was only A recent project in Germany explored the internal and external
able to join the faculty and become full professor after conditions of the lives and work of academics that continue to
Arnold died in 1968 (Howery in Deegan, 1991). adversely affect women’s employment (Rusconi and Solga,
These antinepotism regulations, even though they were 2011). While this project focused on the current situation, it
applied in varying severity at different institutions, locked out can serve as a repository of themes to pursue relevant questions
38 Scholars, Private Lives of

in historical research on private lives of scholars in the social move toward comparative, transnational, longitudinal, and
and behavioral sciences. comprehensive analyses. Investigating various perspectives of
More systematic study of the intended and unintended private lives of scholars in the context of different cultures,
consequences of university hiring policies and practices for disciplines, historical contextualization, and discourses will
the women and their spouses and families has the potential significantly enrich the historiography of the social and behav-
to illuminate the intersection of the personal and the profes- ioral sciences and their practitioners.
sional. As research has focused on North America and more
recently Germany, an international comparative perspective
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