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Robert K. Merton is among the most influential sociologists of the twentieth century. He is the founder of a sophisticated variety of structural functionalism, the originator of modern sociology of science, and a prolific contributor to the conceptual and theoretical resources of several sociological disciplines.

He was born on July 4, 1910, in Philadelphia, and died February 24, 2003 in New York. He graduated from Temple College in 1931 and pursued graduate study at Harvard University, where in 1936 he defended a doctoral dissertation on Science, Technology and Society in Seventeenthcentury England. Merton's thesis about the influence of puritan, pietist religion on the emergence of experimental natural science is still vigorously debated. In 1941 he moved to Columbia University, where he was to remain on the ...

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