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William Graham Sumner (1840–1910) is credited with teaching the first sociology course in the United States. He was one of the founders of the American Sociological Society movement and its second president. Sumner was greatly influenced by Herbert Spencer and became an American proponent of social Darwinism and laissez-faire.

Sumner was born in Paterson, New Jersey, and spent his childhood in Hartford, Connecticut. His parents had emigrated from England and raised William in a strict religious environment. After spending four years at Yale (1859–1863), Sumner attended the Universities of Geneva, Goettingen, and Oxford (1863–1866) in preparation for the ministry. While in Europe he changed his religion from the Congregational to the Protestant Episcopal faith, becoming ordained a deacon in 1867. Sumner began doubting mystical theory ...

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