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50th Anniversary Events

2014 marked an important milestone for the Sociology department at Edinburgh. It had been 50 years since Tom Burns founded the department in 1964 and became its first Chair of Sociology. We decided to mark this with a year-long programme of events to celebrate sociology's achievements during the past half century.

Burns emphasised the importance of teaching students not just about society, but about the methodologies and skills required to study it, a legacy that has contributed to our international standing in teaching and research and positioned Edinburgh as centre of excellence in the discipline.

Event Highlights

Our events highlighted both the important historical influence of the subject area in national and international fields of sociology and also celebrated that ongoing legacy. The programme of lectures kicked off on the 2nd October with a talk by Professor John Eldridge from the University of Glasgow, who delivered a special anniversary seminar "Tom Burns and the Practice of Sociology".

The 2014 Erving Goffman Memorial lecture was delivered in November by Professor Howard Becker, a stellar figure in sociology. The title of his lecture is ‘Chicago, 1950, Another Look’, which will be about his and Goffman’s time at the Chicago Sociology.

Throughout the year we hosted special anniversary events including inaugural lectures delivered by Professor Vernon Gayle and Professor Graham Crow, the conferment of honorary degrees to eminent international colleagues, special master-classes and an anniversary conference.

We also invited a range of people from across the discipline who have contributed to our subject area and who remain touched by the influence of Edinburgh sociology. We highlighted the important and ongoing contribution that the subject area makes to what is now a diverse area of sociological work. 

About the 50th logo 

A classic 1960s typography alongside a freeform graphic that represents a ‘nest of knowledge’ – a home for ideas that grows and develops over time. © Wing Design 2013

Further Information

A website that celebrates Tom's work and which includes a biography and an important posthumous manuscript on the history of organisations ("Organisation and Social Order"), can be found hereFounding Principals, a short history of Sociology at Edinburgh (1964-1987) by Frank Bechhofer and David McCrone can be found here.

Gallery and video from the 50th Anniversary Conference

sociology at 50