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Daniel Lerner papers

Identifier: MC-0336

Scope and Contents

The collection documents Daniel Lerner's career as a political scientist, especially his research on European elites. The bulk of the collection focuses on his research in the 1950s and 1960s. Although he spent 25 years as a professor at MIT, the collection contains little information about his activities as a teacher or member of the Department of Political Science. Lerner’s work as a member of MIT's Center for International Studies (CENIS) is represented by his research on European elites and his publications on the role of communication and technology in the modernization of underdeveloped countries. A small amount of biographical information includes Lerner's doctoral thesis (New York University, 1948) Sykewar, ETO, which reflects his experience as a chief intelligence officer with the Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) during World War II (box 1). His curriculum vitae, a list of his publications through 1976, and files of news clips provide a partial overview of his professional activities (box 1).

Information on Lerner's activities before MIT is limited. His work as the representative to the Library of Congress Mission in Europe from Stanford University's Hoover Institute (1946-1947) is detailed in reports to his superior. There are no papers from his term as director of the International Studies Program at the Hoover Institute or his concurrent appointment as adjunct professor of sociology at Stanford University.

With the cooperation of CENIS and the University of Paris, Lerner founded the Institut d'Etudes Européennes in 1953 and served as its research director until 1965. In this role he conducted the European Elite Panel Survey (TEEPS), a long-term study of the opinions of European leaders on political, economic, and military issues. The aim of the study was to learn how European elites viewed their diminished power in the postwar era and how they envisioned their futures. The surveys spanned a decade, allowing Lerner and his assistants to compare results from different years. This comparative, empirical approach to social research, which was unique for the time, built on the idea of social science as comparative history promoted by Harold Lasswell, Lerner's colleague at the Hoover Institute. Lerner's work complemented research in international communication being done at the same time by other members of CENIS. Correspondence between Lerner and CENIS director Max Millikan and CENIS's International Communication Program director Ithiel de Sola Pool (box 6) document their exchange of ideas in the formative stages of TEEPS.

TEEPS surveys of elites were conducted in Germany, France, and Great Britain in 1955, 1956, 1959, 1961, and 1965. Information on the administration and methodology of the surveys is located in correspondence, memos, survey instructions, and survey design files for Britain and France (boxes 1, 2, 6, and 7). The correspondence between Lerner and his research assistants describes the field work, records problems of interviewing and data analysis, and documents the progress of the project (boxes 1, 2, and 6). The information about the study available in the collection is incomplete; the depth of material varies with countries and dates. There are no files on the 1955 surveys, or on any of the German surveys.

Lerner's use of the ADMINS computer system at MIT to analyze the survey data was a technological innovation that provided sophisticated data management. The collection contains the code books, coding notes, and data totals, called survey marginal distributions, used by the researchers in computer analysis of the data. The process is described in Annex 7 of the book Euratlantica (1969), written by Lerner and Morton Gordon.

The survey was also administered to members of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in 1965 to compare their views with those of other elites. Completed surveys, referred to as questionnaires in Lerner's files, are located in box 6. The CERN survey is described in Annex 3 of Euratlantica.

The United States Naval Test Ordnance (NOTS) provided support for TEEPS from 1963 to 1965. Lerner's relationship with NOTS is detailed in several proposals and reports (box 10).

TEEPS and the information on European elites gained from the survey is the focus of Euratlantica. Early drafts and research notes describe the development of the book (boxes 11 and 12).

A second major project documented in the collection is Lerner's research on communication patterns and social change in the Middle East. Lerner was one of the first scholars to study the effects of modernization on the Middle East. He conducted field surveys in the Middle East as a member of a research project supported by the Columbia School of Applied Research and the Center for International Studies (CENIS) at MIT. The surveys asked participants about their exposure to and opinions of various media sources, specifically radio, television and newspapers. Lerner published his research on the Middle East in The Passing of Traditional Society (1958). The completed surveys found in the collection may not have been administered by him; handwritten notes and signatures suggest that they were performed by research assistants.

Lerner published consistently throughout his career. His writings reflect his interest in communication, development, and technology as well as his research on elites. France Defeats EDC, edited by Lerner and Raymond Aron, is well documented in the collection by research notes and correspondence (box 12) as is Static and Dynamic France (box 13).


  • 1946 - 1979


Conditions Governing Access

Materials in this collection are open unless they are marked as restricted. Restrictions are noted in the container list.

Conditions Governing Use

Access to collections in the Department of Distinctive Collections is not authorization to publish. Please see the MIT Libraries Permissions Policy for permission information. Copyright of some items in this collection may be held by respective creators, not by the donor of the collection or MIT.

Biographical Note

Daniel Lerner was born in Brooklyn, New York, on October 30, 1917. He studied at Johns Hopkins University, 1934-1935, and at New York University, where he received his AB in 1938, his MA in 1939, and his PhD in English in 1948. Lerner was also a student at Harvard University and Columbia University, 1939-1942. While at NYU Lerner was an instructor in modern European history and literature at both NYU and Stevens Institute of Technology.

Daniel Lerner served with the US Army from 1942 to 1946, rising from the rank of private to captain. He was chief editor for the Intelligence Branch of the Psychological Warfare Division, Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) and chief of the Intelligence Information Control Division of the Office of the Military Government. He was awarded the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Palmes Academique, and the Officier d'Academie (France).

From 1946 to 1953 Lerner was affiliated with the Hoover Institute and Stanford University. In 1946-1947, he served as the Institution's representative on the Library of Congress's Mission to Europe to retrieve books and other printed materials relating to World War II. From 1947 to 1953 Lerner was an adjunct professor of sociology at Stanford University and served as the executive secretary and research director of the International Studies Project at the Hoover Institution. The project's study of "the world revolution of our times" was a landmark of postwar social science and is credited with the creation of "the policy sciences."

Daniel Lerner's 25-year career at MIT began in 1953 when he was appointed professor of sociology and a member of the Center for International Studies (CENIS), which was founded in 1951. In 1958 he was named the Ford Professor of Sociology and International Communication, the first chair in international communication at MIT. The chair was made possible by a grant from the Ford Foundation to continue research in international communications in CENIS.

During the 1950s Daniel Lerner worked on a study of Middle East countries supported by the Bureau of Applied Social Research of Columbia University in cooperation with CENIS. Lerner and other members of the project conducted field surveys in Turkey, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt. They questioned participants on their attitudes towards radio, newspapers, and cinema. The results of the study were complied and analyzed by Lerner in "The Passing of Traditional Society: Modernizing the Middle East", which was published in 1958. This was the first major study devoted to the effects of modernization, urbanization, and the mass media on the individual in the Middle East.

With the cooperation of CENIS and the University of Paris, Lerner founded the Institut d'Etudes Européennes in Paris and served as its research director from 1954 to 1965. During this time, the Institut performed a major systematic survey of the attitudes of German, French, and British elites on economic, political, and military issues facing Europe and the world in the aftermath of World War II. The study, called the European Elite Panel Survey or TEEPS, produced two books:France Defeats EDC, co-edited with Raymond Aon (1957) and Euratlantica: Changing Perspectives of the European Elites, co-authored with Morton Gordon (1969).

While at MIT Lerner was the director of the Hayden Colloquium on Scientific Concept and Method from 1957 to 1966. He served as the editor for four books that were published from the colloquium's proceedings: Evidence and Interference (1959), Quantity and Quality (1961), Parts and Wholes (1963), and Cause and Effect (1965).

Lerner was also a senior fellow, visiting researcher, and consultant for the East-West Center in Hawaii, where he pursued his interest in development communications. He edited two books on the topic with Wilbur Schramm based on conferences held at the East-West Center: Communication and Change in the Developing Countries(1967) and Communication and Change: The Last Ten Years and the Next(1976).

His other publications include Skyewar: Psychological Warfare Against Germany (1949), The Policy Sciences: Recent Developments in Scope and Method, with Harold D. Lasswell (1951), and Communication and Propaganda in World History (3 volumes), with Harold D. Lasswell and Hans Speier (1979-1980). Lerner also published over 100 papers in professional journals of sociology, psychology, political science, and public opinion research.

In addition to his activities at MIT, Lerner was a member of numerous professional societies, including the American Sociological Society, the American Psychological Society, The American Academy of Political and Social Science, the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, and the American Association of Public Opinion Research.

Daniel Lerner died on May 1, 1980.


14 Cubic Feet (14 record cartons)

Language of Materials



Materials are stored off-site. Advance notice is required for use.

Source of Acquisition

Materials were given to the Department of Distinctive Collections (formerly the Institute Archives and Special Collections) in 1991 by Jean Lerner.


The following boxes have been screened:

-Box 12 (?)

-Box 13 (CT, 3/3/17)

Processing Information note

Some collection descriptions are based on legacy data and may be incomplete or contain inaccuracies. Description may change pending verification. Please contact the MIT Department of Distinctive Collections if you notice any errors or discrepancies.

Preliminary Inventory to the Papers of Daniel Lerner
Elizabeth Boucher
Copyright 1997
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Libraries. Department of Distinctive Collections Repository

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