Dr. Selden D. Bacon (1908-1992) was the first director of the Center of Alcohol Studies at Rutgers University, after the Center had to move from Yale University and it found a new home at Rutgers in 1962. While at Rutgers, Bacon garnered support for a specialized library (which was shut down in 2016), the Journal of Studies on Alcohol (now called the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs), and a publication program for the center.
Born on September 10, 1909, Selden Daskam Bacon was the son of a prominent New York lawyer, Selden Bacon. His mother, Josephine Dodge Daskam Bacon, was the author of many novels and short stories. Being from a family with such a strong Yale “tradition,” it is unsurprising that he chose to attend Yale University for his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. His first two degrees were focused on criminology. But after earning his Masters in 1934, Bacon began to teach at Pennsylvania State University. He eventually returned to Yale in 1939 and earned his Ph.D. in Sociology.
This continued to be his primary field of focus until 1943 when he was asked by the Connecticut War Council to conduct a study on the jailed population which led him to his interest in alcohol and alcoholism. Bacon found the main reason for the imprisonment of this population was related to alcoholism and drunkenness in various degrees. He eventually published a work entitled “Drunkenness in Wartime Connecticut” with Roth in 1943. This research brought him in contact with Howard Haggard at the Yale Laboratory of Applied Physiology.
In the same year, Bacon released his first major publication in the field of alcohol studies. It originally began as a letter to fellow researcher, Jellinek, on the significant of sociology on the study of alcohol and remains one the most important works in the field today. Sociology and the problems of alcohol: Foundations for a sociologic study of drinking behavior was published in the Quarterly Journal of Studies on Alcohol in 1943.
Bacon soon became the natural “heir” to the Center of Alcohol Studies. He was well versed in the Yale “culture” having been educated and employed there. This diminished his contributions to the research field however; he continued to publish important works. Bacon’s studies over the next twenty years were characterized by three important traits: his contribution to the conceptualization, facilitation, and interpretation of research, his supportive relationships with his colleagues who were actually carrying out the research, and his insistence that his colleagues have authorship over the publications. His selflessness and kindness launched the careers of many in the field.
His 1953 study with Robert Straus on drinking and college students was the first of its kind. It identified the distribution of drinking and problems and concluded that the majority of college drinking at the time fell into the non-problem use of alcohol. Eventually, however, Bacon was forced to move the center to Rutgers University in New Jersey. Pressure had grown in Yale against the Center which so publicly connected the university with the concept of alcoholism. While at Rutgers, Bacon garnered support for a specialized library (which is still in existence today), the Journal of Studies on Alcohol (known called the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs), and a publication program.
In 1975, Bacon was forced to retire from the Center by age restrictions imposed by the University. He continued teach until 1980 and continued publishing until his death in 1992. Bacon was succeeded by his wife, Margaret, his two sons, Mike and Sam, and his daughter, Ann.
Bacon’s understanding of Yale culture helped him negotiate the relationship between the center and the university. In the end, however, he found that moving to a public university allowed him to publish more and continue teaching.
1909 Born September 10 in Pleasantville, N.Y.
1931 Graduates with B.A. from Yale University
1935 Graduates with M.A. in Government from Yale University
1937 Joins Pennsylvania State College faculty as instructor of Sociology
1939 Graduates with Ph.D. in Sociology from Yale University
1939 Joins Yale University faculty as instructor of Sociology
1943 Conducts study on jailed population for Connecticut War Council
1943 Begins working with Yale’s Section (later Center) of Alcohol Studies
1950 Becomes director of Yale Section (later Center) of Alcohol Studies
1951 Becomes director of Summer School of Alcohol Studies
1962 Becomes director of the Center of Alcohol Studies at Rutgers; Joins Rutgers faculty
1975 Retires from directorship at Rutgers; continues as a Professor of Sociology
1980 Retires from Rutgers faculty but remains a strong presence in the field
1992 Dies December 6 in Martha’s Vineyard, MA
- Bacon, S. D. (1943). Sociology and the problems of alcohol: Foundations for a sociologic study of drinking behavior. Quarterly Journal of Studies on Alcohol,4, 402—445.
- Straus, R., & Bacon, S. D. (1953). Drinking in college. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
- Bacon, S. D. (1962). The Rutgers Center of Alcohol Studies. A tentative conceptualization of purpose. Quarterly Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 23(2), 321–324.
- Bacon, S. D. (1968). Traffic Accidents Involving Alcohol in the U. S. A.: Second-Stage Aspects of a Social Problem. Quarterly Journal of Studies on Alcohol. Supplement, 29(S4), 11–33.
- Bacon, S. D. (1985). Journal interview, 9: Conversation with Selden D. Bacon. British Journal of Addiction, 80, 115-120.
- Bacon, S. D. (1991). An old warrior looks at the new. In RM. Roman (Ed.), Alcohol: The development of sociological perspectives on use and abuse (pp. 359-379). New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Center of Alcohol Studies
- Allred, N., Bejarano, W., & Ward, J. H. (2023). A Sociologist and the Problems of Alcohol Studies: The Life and Legacy of Selden D. Bacon. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 84(5), 791–796.
- Freed, C. R. (2010). In the Spirit of Selden Bacon: The Sociology Of Drinking and Drug Problems. Sociology Compass, 4(10), 856–868.
- Fillmore, K. M., & Roizen, R. (1993). Tributes to Selden D. Bacon (1909-1992). Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 54(2), 254–255.
- Roman, P. M. (1991). Alcohol: the development of sociological perspectives on use and abuse. Rutgers Center of Alcohol Studies.
From the Digital Alcohol Studies Archives
- Read Bacon’s two seminal publications in the Memoirs series complementing QJSA articles
- Three of his lectures were published in the volume entitled Alcohol, science and society. Twenty-nine lectures with discussions as given at the Yale Summer School of Alcohol Studies.
- Download Selden Bacon’s full bibliography.
- Browse documents related to Selden D. Bacon in RUcore, the Rutgers University Community Repository
- Browse all available documents related to notable people in RUcore, the Rutgers University Community Repository