A chapter of Harvard history ended yesterday as Samuel H. Beer, Eaton Professor of the Science of Government, delivered his last Harvard lecture before retiring.
Beer spoke before a packed hall of about 300 students, admirers and colleagues, some of whom had come as far as a thousand miles to hear the grand finale of Social Sciences 2, "Western Thought and Institutions."
Although Beer will take advantage of retirement regulations that allow him to teach on a half-time basis, Soc Sci 2, which Beer has taught for 30 years, will be gone from Harvard forever.
"In this case, the man made the course and we would not presume to replace him," John H. Harvey, assistant director of General Education, said yesterday.
In the lecture, which received thunderous applause and a standing ovation, Beer discussed Nazi Germany and ended with a quote from a prison camp survivor saying good and bad people exist everywhere.
Then, before the audience realized the lecture was over, and began clapping and cheering, Beer bounded out the door. He was halfway down Divinity Ave. before Michael Walzer, professor of Government and a former sectionman for Soc Sci 2, caught up with him and invited him to the Faculty Club, where more than 20 former sectionmen attended a luncheon in Beer's honor.
The list of former sectionmen in Soc Sci 2 includes such notables as Henry A. Kissinger '50 and James R. Schlesinger '50.
"Good courses never die," Walzer said yesterday, adding that Beer's influence will continue through his former students.
Beer, who is best known for his work in British politics and federalism in America, will continue to study and write books in both fields, Beer said yesterday.
He will teach two government courses at Harvard next fall and will repeat them during the winter quarter at Dartmouth, he added. One course is entitled "American Federalism" and the other "Modern British Politics and Policy."
One of a Kind
Beer, former chairman of the Government Department at Harvard and author of several major works, "is a rich scholar of the type that is not created any more," in a world geared toward specialization," Sidney Verba '53, chairman of the Government Department, said yesterday.
Beer said he is "quite content to terminate Soc. Sci. 2."
"My father took it when he was here but I didn't sign up because he told me it's too hard," one freshman, who wished to remain anonymous, said yesterday.
Beer made no personal observations during the lecture. He began by saying, "I really have changed my lectures over the years. I've even changed the jokes. But this lecture I haven't changed. There's such an air of finality about it."
Beer has long been considered one of the foremost American experts on the theory of federalism. His writings include "The Modernization of American Federalism."