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Pitirim Sorokin Is Dead at Age 79


Pitirim A. Sorokin, professor of Sociology, Emeritus, died at his home in Winchester early Saturday.

One of the world's most eminent sociologists, a former Russian revolutionary, and a conscientious student of "love in five dimensions," he was 79.

Sorokin came to Harvard from the University of Minnesota in 1931 to set up, at the University's invitation, a department of Sociology. For the next 13 years he was chairman of that department.

In 1949, he founded the Harvard Center for Research in Creative Altruism. As the Center's first and only chairman, he was often criticized. His research into the lives of 4600 Christian saints, and 500 living American altruists, his descriptions of five-dimensional love, and his study of Raja-Yoga techniques led some to regard him mistakenly as a ludicrous eccentric.

In justifying his work at the Center, Sorokin said: "Since governments, big foundations, and better brains seem to be absorbed mainly in the promotion of wars and in the invention of increasingly destructive means for the extermination of man by man, someone, somehow, and sometime had to engage in the study of the phenomena of unselfish love, no matter how inadequate were his capabilities or how low the esteem of colleagues for his engaging in such a 'foolish enterprise'".

Sorokin produced a dozen books on love and altruism and they are widely respected.

Born in Russia 20 years before the revolution, Sorokin was jailed repeatedly for spreading anti-Czarist propaganda. During the early stages of the Revolution he held several government posts, including secretary of the Prime Minister in the government of Alexander Kerensky.

After the Bolsheviks came to power, Sorokin was sentenced to death. In 1918, imprisoned in Northern Russia and waiting for his execution, he learned that Lenin had personally intervened to save his life. Sorokin returned to the University of Petrograd whose department of Sociology he had founded.

But Lenin's hopes that Sorokin would convert to devout Bolshevism were disappointed, and he attacked Sorokin in Pravda, calling him "typical of the most implacable part of the Russian intelligentsia." In 1922, Sorokin was banished forever from Russia. He arrived in the United States several months later.

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