Science in the Service of Children, 1893-1935


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Alice Boardman Smuts

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This book is the first comprehensive history of the development of child study during the early part of the twentieth century. Most nineteenth-century scientists deemed children unsuitable subjects for study, and parents were hostile to the idea. But by 1935, the study of the child was a thriving scientific and professional field. Here, Alice Boardman Smuts shows how interrelated movements—social and scientific—combined to transform the study of the child.

Drawing on nationwide archives and extensive interviews with child study pioneers, Smuts recounts the role of social reformers, philanthropists, and progressive scientists who established new institutions with new ways of studying children. Part history of science and part social history, this book describes a fascinating era when the normal child was studied for the first time, a child guidance movement emerged, and the newly created federal Children’s Bureau conducted pathbreaking sociological studies of children.

Alice Boardman Smuts is a founding member of the Society for Research in Child Development’s History Committee, which seeks to promote research and writing in the history of the field of child development. She retired from the faculty at the University of Michigan Bush Center for Child Development and Social Policy.

"Alice Boardman Smuts has written the first comprehensive history of early scientific research on children, which will be very useful to anyone interested in the history of children, science, and social policy. Smuts' work is highly original and she writes in a direct, accessible manner."—Barbara Beatty, Education Department Chair, Wellesley College, and author of Preschool Education in America

"Everyone interested in improving the lives of children and their families should read this book.  It is a brilliant presentation of how the emerging science of child growth and development gave rise to the child caring professions and an important contribution to American history of the twentieth century."—Julius B. Richmond, M.D., Professor of Health Policy, Emeritus, Harvard Medical School

"For anyone wishing to understand the ways in which the child sciences emerged from a matrix of science and social relevance, Science in the Service of Children is an excellent place to begin. . . . In weaving a tapestry of scientific, social, institutional, and professional histories, Smuts provides the first comprehensive narrative of the child sciences in the initial third of the previous century. Written in an engaging style, the book richly details the movements that enabled scientific child study to gain a foothold in American science and society. . . . Smuts's history offers an excellent foundation for further work in the history of scientific study of the child."—Emily D. Cahan, Science

"Alice Boardman Smuts has written an excellent book on a very important subject."--Hamilton Cravens, The Annals of Iowa

‘This is a book which provides an important starting point for further research projects.’

Selected as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2006 by Choice Magazine
ISBN: 9780300144352
Publication Date: August 18, 2008
398 pages, 6.125 x 9.25
30 b/w illus. + maps