The Founding of a Journal
Bill Long 10/10/05
New Light on Porterfield, Jaco and the JHHB
One of the signal contributions of Leonard Cain's biography of Austin Porterfield to the study of the history of sociology is his telling the story of the founding of the Journal of Health and Human Behavior (now Journal of Health and Social Behavior), one of the significant journals in medical sociology, in 1960. At issue is the role of two men, Austin Porterfield of TCU and E. Gartly Jaco, of UT Medical Center in the late 1950s and then Case Western Reserve Univ. in the late 1950s-early 1960s. Cain's work is significant because he modifies the approach given in two scholarly histories of the journal's origin. In so doing, he takes into consideration communications from Jaco himself as well as reminiscences of former Porterfield students. By his patient and balanced treatment, Cain has restored Porterfield's central role in originating the journal without questioning Jaco's essential role in the task.
The "Standard" Account
Before introducing this account, it might be helpful to point out that the JHHB was first launched in Nov. 1960 as the first journal of medical sociology. The two men important in its founding (Porterfield and Jaco) had significantly different training and experience. Porterfield was the senior scholar (63 years old), the generalist, the one at a "small beer" institution. Medical sociology was an interest of his for several years but he had published nothing to date on the subject. Jaco, on the other hand, was a young and eager scholar, with already one book and several articles on medical sociology, and was at the nexus of all the major conversations on this emergent field in the late 1950s. Now let's turn to the roles of each in a dissertation by Robert Day (1981) and a more recent history of medical sociology by Samuel Bloom (The Word as Scalpel: A History of Medical Sociology, 2002).
Beginning with the latter first, Bloom says,
"In 1960 he [Jaco] and Austin L. Porterfield started to publish the Journal of Health and Human Behavior as a free-standing publication, the first journal in modern times devoted entirely to medical sociology. 'Jake,' as he was universally known by his friends, although at first listed as the co-editor, was the real force behind the journal....His [Jaco's] journal, aside from being the first, had an editorial board that read like a Who's Who of the social science of medicine" (quoted in Cain, 197).
Later Bloom says, "Although it was very much a one man operation [meaning Jaco, I presume], Jake had managed to gain a worldwide audience and a list of high quality articles" (Id.).
While Day's account is more balanced, at times seeming to give both Porterfield and Jaco more equal credit, even he says, in citing Jaco's sister's description of the founding:
"[Rose Marie] Jaco's description of the journal's history ...was quite interesting. Started in the spring of 1960, the early journal was sponsored by the Leo Potishman Foundation of TCU and edited by E. Gartly Jaco, a sociologist" (Cain, 194).
Day's description appears in his 1981 dissertation and probably will not seep widely into the field, but Bloom's history attempts to be the standard account of the origin of the journal. It is this account that bugs Cain, and for good reason.
Balancing the Story
Cain is bothered not simply because he was a student of Porterfield's and visited him in the early days of the JHHB and saw MSS lying all around which would eventually make it into the journal, but the standard account doesn't seemingly do justice even to the masthead of the first volume of the journal. Cain prints it on p. 185. It reads as follows: "Editor, Austin L. Porterfield, Ph. D." Then, in the next line it has: "Co-Editor, E. Gartly Jaco, Ph. D). How can the account of Bloom, which tries to wrest credit away from Porterfield, be true, if the masthead itself says the opposite?
Rather than speculate, Cain does what all good researchers do. He goes to the sources. He asked for and received a long letter from Jaco about the founding of the JHHB and he interviewed a long-time colleague of Porterfield who was at TCU at the time. Jaco graciously talks about a mutuality in its founding, and emphasizes the separate roles that each man played. Porterfield initiated the idea with Jaco in 1958 at a regional sociological meeeting, even though Jaco had unsuccessfully probed a similar idea with the Russell Sage Foundation previously. However, Porterfield could come up with the money through the Potishman Foundation for the journal. Jaco says:
"I am trying to state unequivocally that Austin could not get this journal underway without my help, by himself nor without our many and good staff of associate editors. At the same time, I could not get this journal underway, also without Austin's support or Potishman's financial support either. So, the founding of the journal was a combined effort of Austin, Potishman, and myself" (Cain, 189).
Sorting out the Contributions of Each
What Jaco did that may have led Bloom to conclude that he was the real force behind the journal, is to write to prominent sociologists all over the country and get them to sign up to be an advisory board after Porterfield had written to the same people for the same reason and they had declined his invitation. What was, no doubt, at work here is that the "big names" in the field were responding to Jaco and his credentials rather than Porterfield's. But, when they had signed on, Porterfield took lead responsibility for putting out the journal for at least the first three years, while Jaco was getting himself established in Cleveland. Indeed, as Cain points out, the "big names" wrote their articles disproportionately for the journal under Porterfield's editorship (1960-62) than during Jaco's (1963-66) before the journal was given over to the ASA.
My "read" then is that both were essential to the launching of the journal. Jaco provided the name and the draw; Porterfield the idea, the money and the "legs." Together it was a wonderful partnership. Later accounts, giving most credit to Jaco, may have been shaped by the fact that Jaco was always the bigger "name" in medical sociology. Leonard Cain has given us a splendid "balancing account" in this chapter. We are in his debt.
Copyright © 2004-2007 William R. Long