George W. Pierson


George Wilson Pierson (October 22, 1904 – October 12, 1993) was an
American American(s) may refer to: * American, something of, from, or related to the United States of America, commonly known as the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is ...

academic, historian, author and Larned Professor of History at
Yale University Yale University is a private Private or privates may refer to: Music * "In Private "In Private" was the third single in a row to be a charting success for United Kingdom, British singer Dusty Springfield, after an absence of nearly two d ...
. He was the first official historian of the university.Kennedy, Randy
"George Pierson, 88, A Professor at Yale And Its Historian,"
''New York Times.'' October 15, 1993.

Family life

Pierson was a descendant of Yale's first rector,
Abraham Pierson Reverend Abraham Pierson (1646 – March 5, 1707) was the first rector, from 1701 to 1707, and one of the founders of the Collegiate School — which later became Yale University Yale University is a private Ivy League The ...
, and he was related to the college's first student.Arana, Marie
"Last Stop on The Main Line,"
''Washington Post.'' October 11, 2009.
He was the son of Charles Wheeler Pierson, a New York lawyer who had been
valedictorian Valedictorian is an academic title of success used in the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Contiguous United States, primarily located in North Ameri ...
of the Class of 1886. Like his father, Pierson was at the top of his undergraduate class in 1926. "614 Seniors at Yale Receive Diplomas,"
'New York Times.'' June 23, 1926.
In 1936, he brought a new bride to New Haven. In the early 1960s, he and his wife celebrated the marriage of two daughters, Laetitia and Nora. According to a granddaughter, he was a man "with glittering eyes and a sly sense of humor."


Pierson earned a B.A. at Yale in 1926, and was awarded a Ph.D. in history from Yale in 1933.Yale Alumni Association
Medalists by Year, 1973
/ref> His dissertation was "Two Frenchmen in America, 1831–1832," a study of the experiences of Alexis de Toqueville and
Gustave de Beaumont Gustave de Beaumont Comte Gustave Auguste Bonnin de la Bonninière de Beaumont (1802 in Beaumont-sur-Dême, Beaumont-la-Chartre, Sarthe – 1866, Tours) was a French magistrate, prison reformer, and travel companion to the famed philosopher and poli ...
in the United States. It won the distinguished John Addison Porter Prize from the university for best work of scholarship that year.


Pierson's entire academic career unfolded at Yale, beginning in 1926. As an assistant professor in the Department of History in 1938,Thompson, Ralph
"The Aristocrats The Excuse,"
''New York Times.'' July 14, 1938.
Pierson translated and quoted from several of the letters in a book he wrote about Tocqueville in America; but he viewed them as primary source documents rather than as an epistolary accomplishment. The value of this early scholarship assumed greater importance as general public interest in Tocqueville's writing has evolved. Pierson was named to an endowed professorship in 1946. He remained active in teaching and as an administrator until his retirement in 1973. Pierson had climbed the academic ladder to become the chairman of the History Department in the late-1950s and early-1960s. Among his achievements was recruiting noted historians Arthur F. Wright and Mary C. Wright to teach Chinese history and John Whitney Hall to teach Japanese history. Pierson was a strong opponent to Yale's initial attempt at some form of coordinate or co-education with Vassar College. In a statement made to the "Vassar Miscellany News", Pierson said women "have never been celebrated in any work I know for their originality, their Imagination, their rebelliousness or constructiveness of thought." "Yale Professors Laud Coeducation: 'All-Male System Archaic and Absurd'" URL= In the foreword to ''Yale: A Short History'', Pierson described Yale as "at once a tradition, a company of scholars, a society of friends."

Selected works

Pierson's published writings encompass 38 works in 53 publications in 2 languages and 3,892 library holdings. His works are widely studied and are used frequently in most collegiate level U.S. history courses. * ''Tocqueville and Beaumont in America'' (1938) * ''The Frontier and Frontiersmen of Turner's Essays: a Scrutiny of the Foundations of the Middle Western Tradition'' (1940) * ''American Historians and the Frontier Hypothesis in 1941'' (1942) * ''Yale: College and University : 1871–1937.'' (1952) * ''The M-factor in American History'' (1962) * ''Tocqueville in America'' (1969) * '' The Education of American Leaders; Comparative Contributions of U.S. Colleges and Universities'' (1969) * ''The moving American'' (1973) * ''Lettres d'Amérique'' by Gustave de Beaumont, edited by George Pierson. (1973) * ''Yale: a Short History'' (1976) * ''Tocqueville's Visions of Democracy'' (1976) * ''Yale Book of Numbers: Historical Statistics of the College, 1701–1976'' (1983) * ''The Founding of Yale : the Legend of the Forty Folios'' (1988) * ''The History of the Georgica Association 1880–1948'' (1992) * ''The Bringing of the Mill (1942–1943)'' (1962) * ''A Poose and its Neighbors, Episodes from the history of Georgica Pond and its bar'' (1992)


* 1973 — Wilbur Cross medal. * 1974 — William Clyde DeVane medal.Yale Phi Beta Kappa
DeVane Medalists, 1966-Present



* Kennedy, Randy

''New York Times.'' October 15, 1993.

Further reading

* Friend, Tad. (2009). ''Cheerful Money: Me, My Family, And the Last Days of Wasp Splendor.'' New York: Little, Brown and Co. ;

External links

* George Wilson Pierson papers (MS 401). Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library

{{DEFAULTSORT:Pierson, George Wilson 1904 births 1993 deaths Yale University faculty