Roscoe Pound (1870-1964). Nathan Roscoe Pound was born in 1870, in Lincoln, Nebraska, the son of Stephen Bosworth Pound, a lawyer and judge, and Laura Biddlecombe Pound. His parents were New Yorkers who immigrated to Nebraska. Pound received his early education at home from his mother, who thought public education was unacceptably poor at that time.
She taught young Roscoe and his two sisters at home until they were old enough to enter the Latin School, the preparatory school affiliated with the University of Nebraska. Their at-home education was filled with intellectual curiosity and included trips and play.
Pound attended the University of Nebraska, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in botany in 1888. His father convinced him to attend Harvard Law School, but he stayed only one year. Pound was more interested in the theater, opera, the symphony and Harvard football. His father demanded that he return to Lincoln because the elder Pound felt Roscoe was wasting his time at Harvard. He studied at his father’s law firm, passed the Nebraska bar examination without a law degree and was admitted to the bar in 1890. He began working for his father’s law firm.
Pound was angry at his father for making him return to Lincoln and his father’s criticism of his work at the law firm made matters worse. He had no interest in practicing law at that time. He decided to earn a doctorate in botany from the university and served as the director of the state botanical survey. Even though Pound could have had a distinguished career in the sciences, his appointment as a commissioner of appeals for the Nebraska Supreme Court permanently shifted his career to the law. In 1903, he was appointed dean of the Nebraska College of Law. However, he wasn’t happy and returned to Harvard.
Pound joined the faculty at Harvard Law School and was appointed dean in 1916 and served until 1936. He resigned as dean of the Harvard Law School and was appointed the first university professor of Harvard in 1937. This appointment meant that he was permitted to teach in any of the academic units of Harvard.
Pound was an opponent of much of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation. He was actively involved in attempts to stop the great expansion of federal administrative agencies. He continued writing during his later years, publishing his monumental five-volume Jurisprudence in 1959.
At the age of 76, Pound served as adviser to the Nationalist China Ministry of Justice (1946-1949), which was reorganizing its judicial system. When he returned to the United States, he was extremely critical of America’s China policy, because of its ineffective support of Chiang Kai-shek.
Pound retired from Harvard in 1947 but continued to teach at a number of law schools for several years and maintained his steady flow of publications. In all, he authored over one thousand items. He died in Cambridge, Massachusetts on July 1, 1964.