"He Sees The Development of Children's Concepts Upon A BAckground of Sociology": Jean Piaget's Honorary Degree at Harvard University in 1936


In the recent memory, Jean Piaget has been known as a cognitive developmental psychologist. But in 1936 when Harvard gave him his first honorary degree, he was recognized mainly as a sociologist. Why did Harvard honor him in 1936? Who knew his work well enough to nominate him? This article will address these questions by exploring archival documents from different sources. Evidence draws our attention to a broad social and intellectual endeavor in philanthropy, other social sciences, and especially industrial research that brought Piaget across the water. This article also attempts to interpret the circumstances of the nomination process inside and outside of Harvard University by using a theory of institutional design. It suggests that embodied in Harvard's honor of Piaget in 1936 was an idealistic act in social designing for a future society. © 2004 Educational Publishing Foundation.

Publication Title

History of Psychology