Lester Frank Ward

Lester Ward Lester F. Ward (June 18, 1841 – April 18, 1913) was an American botanist, paleontologist, and sociologist. He served as the first president of the American Sociological Association.

Ward promoted the introduction of sociology courses into American higher education. His belief that society could be scientifically controlled was especially attractive to intellectuals during the Progressive Era. His influence in certain circles (see: the Social Gospel) was affected by his opinions regarding organized priesthoods, which he believed had been responsible for more evil than good throughout human history.

Ward emphasized the importance of social forces which could be guided at a macro level by the use of intelligence to achieve conscious progress, rather than allowing evolution to take its own erratic course as proposed by William Graham Sumner and Herbert Spencer. Ward emphasized universal and comprehensive public schooling to provide the public with the knowledge a democracy needs to successfully govern itself.

A collection of Ward's writings and photographs is maintained by the Special Collections Research Center of the George Washington University. The collection includes articles, diaries, correspondence, and a scrapbook. GWU's Special Collections Research Center is located in the Estelle and Melvin Gelman Library.
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