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Chicago. Ph.D. Field exam reports by Viner, Wright, and Millis. 1923




Today’s posting provides an observation from the paper-flow in reporting the results of Ph.D. field exams at the department of political economy of the University of Chicago in the 1920’s. Fields examined were capitalistic organization, government administration, trusts, economic history, and labor.

Of the five Ph.D. students mentioned in the following Ph.D. field exam reports from August 1923 only two were awarded Ph.D.’s by the University of Chicago economics department:

Elinor Evangeline Pancoast [the link takes you to a few blog posts from a currently inactive blog by a woman who has examined the Pancoast papers archived at Goucher College] received her Ph.D. in Autumn,1927 with the dissertation “The photo-engravers’ union”. She went on to teach at Goucher College in Baltimore. She lived to be 100!

Lewis Carlyle Sorrell received his Ph.D. in Autumn, 1928 with the dissertation “Transportation and traffic in industry” and went on to Professor of Transportation and Traffic in the School of Business at the University of Chicago.



Jacob Viner’s handwritten report

The Quadrangle Club

Dear Mr. Millis,

I am reporting to you on the Ph.D. papers, on the understanding that in the Dean’s absence you have assumed the task of supervision

Fife. Capitalistic Organization. Passed.
Miss Pancoast. Government Administration. Passed.
Lynn. Government Administration. Failed.

            I think there should be no hesitation in accepting Mr. Fife’s and Miss Pancoast’s papers. They are both good papers, showing thorough preparation, a good grasp of the problems discussed, and considerable independence of judgment.

Lynn’s paper is poor. On several of the questions he is absolutely at sea, and on none of them does he display any measure of ability or knowledge above the middling grade.

J. Viner

Fife’s and Miss Pancoast’s papers have been sent on to the others.


C. W. Wright’s handwritten report

The School of Commerce and Administration

Memorandum to Miss McKugs from C.W. Wright, Aug 14 192[3]

I have to report as follows on the examinations taken for the Ph.D.

L. C. Sorrell. Trusts. Passed A-
Elinor Pancoast. Economic History [Passed] A-
Harry Fife. [Economic History] [Passed] B
A. J. Lynn [Economic History] Not passed D

C.W. Wright


H. A. Millis first typed memo

Department of Political Economy

August 20, 1923

Memorandum re examinations for the doctorate.

I have read the Labor papers written two weeks ago by candidates for the doctorate. Mr. H. A. Fife’s paper grades A or A-, that by Mr. C. F. Lay slightly under C. Fife and Lay are therefore passed. I do not regard Mr. A. J. Lynn’s paper as passable. I shall have other members of the department read it, and then make final report.

Signed: H. A. Millis


H. A. Millis second typed memo

Department of Political Economy

Memorandum re Exams for the Doctorate.

I have graded Labor papers by Fife and Lay, A- and C-. Hitchcock, Viner and I have all three found Lynn’s paper in Labor below the passing point. Viner and I grade his paper in Govt Adm. below passing while Merriam grades it D. Viner and I grade Miss Pancoast in this same field B or A- and Merriam says it is at least a “good paper”

Signed: H. A. Millis


Source: University of Chicago Archives. Economics Department, Records & Addenda. Box 35, Folder 14.


Irwin Collier

Posted by: Irwin Collier