Copyright Sociological Research Online, 1996


Anselm L. Strauss
18th December 1916 - 5th September 1996

Sociologist Anselm Strauss, 79, died on the 5th September in San Francisco of a heart attack. Professor Emeritus at the University of California, San Francisco, Strauss was internationally known as a social science methodologist and as a medical sociologist, especially for his pioneering attention to the problems of chronic illness. Strauss developed an innovative method of qualitative research called grounded theory, with sociologist Barney Glaser, which was widely adopted in sociology, nursing, education and social work.

An alumnus of the University of Virginia, Strauss received both Master's and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. He came to the University of California, San Francisco in 1960 at the behest of the dean of nursing to teach research methods in a new doctoral program in nursing, the first in the Western USA. He had built this research unit into a full-fledged doctoral program in sociology by 1968. As Professor, Founder, Chair and visionary of the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Strauss forged a unique focus on health, illness and qualitative research. He became Professor Emeritus in 1987, but continued teaching and researching until his death.

Strauss' inquiries into medical work included studies of dying patients, an array of chronic illnesses, the psychology of pain, psychiatric practice, kinds of medical work, risk and the politics of medical care. During the course of a long career, he made contributions to several other branches of sociology as well, including urban sociology and social psychology.

Many of Strauss' early books are still in print, including a social psychology textbook first written in the 1940s (now in its 9th edition) and his first monograph Mirrors and Masks. His works have been translated into many other languages. His culminating theoretical statement was Continual Permutations of Action (1993). He had just finished proofreading his 32nd book the day before he died.

Strauss received numerous prestigious professional awards including the Leo G. Reeder Award for Distinguished Contributions to Medical Sociology, the Mead Career Award from the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction, the Cooley-Mead Award of the Social Psychology Section of the American Sociological Association, the Faculty Research Award and the Helen Nahm Research Lectureship for the School of Nursing, both from the University of California, San Francisco, and the Cooley Award for best book from the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction in 1978 for Negotiations: Varieties, Processes, Contexts and Social Order.

Strauss had been an invited visiting professor at the Universities of Frankfurt and Constance in Germany, Cambridge and Manchester in England, Paris and Adelaide. He maintained extensive research networks in Germany, as well as Japan and France. He was a consultant for the World Health Organization on nursing education in Southeast Asia in 1962 and 1970. After serving as an assistant professor at Indiana University and the University of Chicago, Strauss directed research at Michael Reese Hospital, Chicago. He was well known for a gentle and informal style of teaching. Dozens of students sat for lessons held at his kitchen table, where conversations would invariably open with a smiling, 'Now, tell me what you're working on'. He is survived by his wife of fifty-six years, Frances, his niece Louise Resnick, his sister-in-law Sylvia Zucker, several nephews and nieces, and the many students and colleagues who became part of his 'adoptive family'.

Adele Clarke, University of California, San Francisco
Susan Leigh Star, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

A further appreciation of the life and work of Anselm Strauss will appear in the next issue of Sociological Research Online.

Copyright Sociological Research Online, 1996