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William H. Sewell
Born(1909-11-27)November 27, 1909
DiedJune 24, 2001(2001-06-24) (aged 91)
Known forWisconsin model
Academic background
ThesisThe Construction and Standardization of a Scale for the Measurement of Oklahoma Farm Family Socio-economic Status (1939)
Doctoral advisorF. Stuart Chapin

William Hamilton Sewell (November 27, 1909 – June 24, 2001) was a United States sociologist and the chancellor of the University of Wisconsin–Madison during the 1967–1968 school year. He is the father of William H. Sewell Jr..


Sewell was born on November 27, 1909, in Perrinton, Michigan. He attended Michigan State University, where he received his BA in 1933 and his MA in 1934, both in sociology. He then attended the University of Minnesota, where he received his Ph.D. in sociology in 1939 with a dissertation supervised by F. Stuart Chapin.[1] He briefly taught at Michigan State and Oklahoma State before he became a professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin in 1946, where he became the chancellor in 1967.

Sewell was known for his research in the sociology of inequality, especially in schooling, as well as his empirical approach to sociology.

Sewell became chancellor of the Madison campus in 1967, in the midst of the Vietnam War and student protests. After a tough year due to the protesting, in June 1968, he resigned as chancellor and returned to research and teaching. In 1971 Sewell served as president of the American Sociological Association.

Personal life

Sewell was the father of William H. Sewell Jr., also a sociologist. Sewell, Sr. died in Madison, Wisconsin, in 2001.

Selected works


Academic offices
Preceded by
Robben Wright Fleming
Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin–Madison
Succeeded by
Bryant Kearl