Dalhousie Law Journal


American legal realism, scientific knowledge, social sciences, searching introspection


For many years I have been asking myself the question: In what way or ways is it possible to study law scientifically? This has, naturally, led to an examination both into the nature of scientific knowledge, more especially in those fields in which scientific study has won its greatest successes- such as physics, chemistry, astronomy- and into the possibilities of developing similar bodies of knowledge in the field of what are commonly called the social sciences. W. W. Cook.' Walter Wheeler Cook, Herman Oliphant, and Hessel Yntema formed a distinctly homogeneous trio among the widely divergent band of legal scholars who, whether by design or repute, constituted the American Legal Realist movement. The three men all began their academic careers in disciplines other than law - Cook as a mathematician and physicist; Oliphant as a Professor of Language; and Yntema as a Political Scientist.2 As colleagues at Columbia Law School, they played a crucial role in the cultivation of the searching introspection which characterized that institution in the second decade of the twentieth century and, although Cook left Columbia in 1922, the other members of the trio remained to figure prominently in the momentous discussions on curricular reform which were undertaken by the Faculty of Law between 1926 and 1928. 3 The period of closest co-operation between the three scholars, however, was that between 1928 and 1933 when they joined forces for the launching of the ill-fated Institute of Law at Johns Hopkins.