Associate Professor of Sociology Paul E. Starr yesterday received the Pulitzer Prize for son-fiction.
"I'm elated and astonished." Starr said after learning that his book. The Social Transformation of American Medicine, was awarded the most prestigious prize for American writing.
Starr is the first Harvard sociologist to receive a Pulitzer award.
The prize is awarded annually to a distinguished American author of non-fiction, said Robert C. Christopher, administrator of the Pulitzer Prize, explaining that the prime considerations are literary quality and originality.
"Starr produced an exceptionally original work," Christopher added.
The book investigates the rise to power of the medical profession as well as reforms and crises in America's health care system. Starr said, explaining it was "an attempt to dissect the origins of American medicine."
In the words of one critic, the book is "the definitive study of how American medicine got the way it is and why it has been so impervious to beneficial change."
The book also won the Bancroft Prize for distinction in American History just two weeks ago, bringing Starr $4000 in prize money.
The Pulitzer includes a $1000 monetary award.
Starr's colleagues unanimously praised the work.
"The book is a tremendous work on a very timely subject" said William Alonso. Saltonstall professor of population policy, adding. "The book attacks a major dimension in our society with every weapon it can."
Starr combines history and sociology in an unprecedented manner, said Alonso.
"The book uses historical data which a historian could not have written, a view which only sociologists are qualified to take," said Orlando Patterson, professor of sociology. "It's an unique perspective of medicine," he added. "Paul's book is a fine example of critical social analysis."
Patterson said that some people around the university have wondered exactly what constitutes the dicipline of sociology. "This book proves that sociology brings a unique outlook to the important institutionalization of American medicine," he added.
"Paul brings sociology's characteristic tradition of powerful insightfulness into many different types of sciences," such as medicine, economics, history and even politics, he said, adding that Starr is a big boost to the department."
Phi Beta Kappa
Starr graduated summa cum laude. Phi Beta Kappa, from Columbia University in 1970, where he was editor of the Daily Spectator, the university newspaper. He came to Harvard in 1975 as a junior fellow in the Society of Fellows and began teaching sociology as an assistant professor in 1978.
Starr has written The Discarded Arms, a book about Vietnam veterans, in addition to his prizewinning work, along with several other works of non fiction and over 40 articles and columns.
In the future, Starr said he will concentrate on exploring the distinctions between public and private life.
Starr is the 25th Harvard affiliate to garner a Pulitzer prize. His predecessors include the writer Archibald MacLeish, the historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. '38. Adams University Professor Bernard Bailyn. Professor Robert W. Coles '50 and Baird Professor of Science Edwin O. Wilson, among others.