In Memoriam

Charles Perrow
November 13, 2019

The Sociology Department regrets the loss of Charles Perrow. ‘Chick’ was born in 1925 and gained his PhD from Berkeley in 1960. He joined Yale in 1981 and became Emeritus at Yale in 2000. After his official retirement Chick remained an active member of our departmental community for many years. Famed for his analytic mind Perrow accumulated multiple fellowships, awards, elected offices and honors in his lifetime. These culminated in the 2019 Distinguished Career Award from the American Sociological Association. He was a giant figure in the world of organizational sociology and is best known for his six books and over fifty articles looking at bureaucracies, capitalism and complex systems. In recent years he was widely acclaimed for his work on ‘normal accidents’. His book on the topic from 1984 (revised in 1999) has been cited over 12,000 times. It argued catastrophes like Three Mile Island and the Challenger space shuttle disaster happen when humans and leading-edge technologies come together. Even if we can’t predict exactly when or where such unfortunate events will take place they are in a sense inevitable given the complexities of the social/technology nexus and the possibilities for a cascade of errors and enchained failures.

Wendell Bell
November 8, 2019

The Sociology Department was saddened to learn of the death of Wendell Bell. A former Chair of the Department, Bell was in recent years one of our Emeritus Professors. He was especially noted for his path breaking contributions to Future Studies and for his work on the Caribbean. ‘Wendy’ Bell published academic work for an incredible sixty years from the mid-1950s onwards. Born in California in the 1920s  he had a long and unusually full life which is recorded in his autobiography from 2011 “Memories of the Future”. Reading the book we discover, for example, that he was an accomplished US Navy pilot and horseman in addition to being a leading scholar.

Immanuel Wallerstein
September 4, 2019

The Sociology Department at Yale is deeply saddened to announce the death of Professor Immanuel Wallerstein on August 31, 2019. He was a Senior Research Fellow in our department since 2000 and as such a highly visible presence in our daily life on campus. He received his BA (1951), MA (1954), and PhD (1959) all from Columbia University. He taught at Columbia (1958-71), where he served as a prominent supporter of the students during the 1968 protests, and then at McGill (1971-76).  From 1976-1999, he served as distinguished professor of Sociology at Binghamton University (SUNY), where he was also founder and director of the Fernand Braudel Center for the Study of Economies, Historical Systems, and Civilizations. From 1975 until his death he was a Senior Research Scholar at the Maison des sciences de l’homme in Paris, and intermittently served as Directeur d’études associé at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris. He held positions as visiting professor at many other universities worldwide throughout his career, gave named lectureships, and was awarded 15 honorary degrees from universities around the world.

Wallerstein served as President of the International Sociological Association from 1994-1998, and received the Career of Distinguished Scholarship Award from the American Sociological Association in 2003. In 2014, the International Sociological Association awarded him the first ever Award for Excellence in Research and Practice. During the 1990s, he chaired the Gulbenkian Commission on the Restructuring of the Social Sciences, whose object was to indicate a direction for social scientific inquiry for the next 50 years.

Wallerstein was a prolific author and intellectual giant best known for his influential contributions to world systems theory. His early work on colonial and post-colonial Africa made him highly sensitive to the significant global flows and interconnections in the evolution of capitalism. There followed several decades of theoretical elaboration which looked to explain and document the global division of labor and core/periphery relations. In the process Wallerstein obtained an unparalleled and truly encyclopedic knowledge of the social, political and economic history of the world over the past five hundred years. It is entirely fitting that he has been awarded medals, prizes and degrees from every corner of the planet, including honorary degrees from University of Paris-Denis Diderot, York University, University Libre de Bruxelles, Higher School of Economics in Moscow, and many others.  His books have been translated into dozens of languages. 

In the department, we know Immanuel as a treasured colleague; a sharp and stimulating intellectual critic, and a dear friend. We honor his legacy, and will miss him greatly.