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Hankins, Frank Hamilton

Frank Hamilton Hankins

Frank Hamilton Hankins was born on September 27, 1877 in Wilkshire, Ohio. He grew up in Kansas, where he received an A.B. from Baker University in 1901. He served as superintendent of schools in Waverly, Kansas for two years before entering Columbia University. As a graduate student and fellow in statistics, Hankins was strongly influenced by the philosophy and logic of John Stuart Mill, the sociology of Giddings, Spencer, and Ward, and the quantitative work of Quetelet, Galton, and Pearson. His doctoral dissertation, “Adolphe Quetelet as Statitician” (1908), was an important contribution to the development of empirical sociology.

Hankins served as a member of the Clark University faculty for sixteen years (1906-1922), and head of the Department of Political and Social Science beginning in 1908. Clark, at the time, was under the leadership of the influential psychologist G. Stanley Hall, and was visited by famous psychoanalysts such as Sigmund Freud and Havelock Ellis. Thus, it was a center of research, graduate study, and stimulating scholarly controversy. Hankins contributed numerous articles to scholarly journals, lectured frequently at other universities, studied social conditions in Europe before and after World War I, and taught at the Ecole Libre des Sciences Politique in Paris in 1921. Hankins joined the Smith College faculty in 1922 as Professor of Sociology, and for many years he served as department chairman, until he left Smith in 1946.

Under the presidency of William Allan Neilson, Smith was an exciting and non-cloistered campus. Hankins, in his years at Smith, built up an excellent group of sociologists on campus, which included people such as Harry Elmer Barnes, Ray Billington, G.A. Borgese, Merle Curti, and Harold Faulkner, among others. Hankins was very active on many different boards and organizations on population and individual rights. In 1930, Hankins was elected the first President of the American Sociological Society, and in 1945 President of the American Population Association. He also taught and lectured widely, serving on the faculties of Amherst College, Columbia, Berkeley, the Army Center at Biarritz, and, following his retirement from Smith, the University of Pennsylvania. In 1936, he studied, on the scene, social conditions in Nazi Germany.

Hankins contributed widely to scholarly journals, anthologies, and the Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. His ground-breaking study, The Racial Basis of Civilization: A Critique of the Nordic Doctrine, was published in 1926. In 1928, he published An Introduction to the Study of Society, a textual treatise presenting his principal theoretical and substantive concerns and convictions.

Hankins’ writings reveal a keen interest in the role of biological factors in social life and history and, conversely, in the role of such selective processes as urbanization, education, persecution, and war in the determination of population quantity and quality. He argued in favor of birth control, more for the lower classes and less for the privileged. He condemned authoritarian institutions and practices and supported the maximization of opportunity for all. He also denounced racist policies and believed that racially mixed populations were physically and socially beneficial.

Hankins died of a heart attack at the age of 92 on January 24, 1970 in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey. At the time of his death, he was an eminent sociologist and demographer, distinguished author and lecturer, provocative and influential teacher, an ardent proponent of a strictly scientific sociology, and a concerned humanist.

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