Daniel Scott Smith, 68, died on Jan. 5, 2011 after a long illness. Born to Charles E. and Mildred McCloud Smith in Galesburg, he grew up in Florida. In 1963, after graduating with high honors from the University of Florida, he took a Greyhound bus west to continue his studies at the University of California, Berkeley, receiving his M.A. in 1965 and Ph.D. in 1973. He then completed a certificate in historical demography at Princeton University in 1974. His doctoral dissertation used the town of Hingham, Mass., to investigate the many changes in population, family, and social structure that took place in North America between 1635 and 1880.
A historian, Prof. Smith served on the faculty of the University of Illinois, Chicago for 35 years before retiring in 2009. As a pioneer of the “new” social history, he helped train approximately 600 scholars in quantitative methods while serving as associate director of the Family and Community History Center at Chicago’s Newberry Library from 1974 to 1982. His imaginative and influential studies of the histories of kinship relations, child-naming practices, poverty, fertility and feminism, and historiography, among other subjects, were widely cited and attracted many honors.
At various points in his career, he was recognized with fellowships and grants from such organizations as the American Philosophical Society, the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Stanford Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. He also held a Fulbright Fellowship at the University Of Lund, Sweden.
Committed to bringing the tools of the social sciences to the practice of history, Mr. Smith served as editor of Historical Methods from 1979 to 1990 and was a member of the editorial board of the American Historical Review from 1994 to 1997, in addition to a number of other journals. He was president of the Social Science History Association in 1987-88. In November 2010, at their annual meeting, SSHS held a lively session devoted to assessing his many contributions to the profession.
Despite the difficulties presented by his illness, he was able to offer reflections on his deep affection for historical inquiry and the social sciences. Throughout his career, he concluded, he had approached history as a series of fascinating puzzles, ones that demanded to be solved. A gifted scholar with a talent for asking and answering the most important of questions, he is remembered as a kind, thoughtful, and generous colleague, friend, companion, teacher and father.
Daniel Scott Smith is survived by his children, Jason and Sarah; his siblings, Gretchen Newhall and Douglas; and his former wife, Yvonne. Memorials may be directed to the Palliative Care Program at Northwestern Memorial Foundation, Galter Pavilion, Suite 3-200, 251 E. Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60611.