The history of a discipline records the careers of its practitioners as well as providing an account their ideas. Studying these careers reveals much about the particular people and their work, and also provides insights into general questions such as how disciplines evolve, and how impact can be achieved amongst and beyond academic peers. This article focuses on the career of R. E. (Ray) Pahl. It argues that his position in British sociology over the last half century can be attributed in particular to two things. First, Pahl was committed to asking sociological questions whilst being open to other influences; we call him an interdisciplinary sociologist. Secondly, his approach engaged simultaneously with theoretical, methodological and substantive elements of the discipline rather than treating them as areas of separate expertise. These key facets of his work help in understanding why his work has reached such a wide range of audiences, and in explaining his distinctive record as a sociologist within and beyond the academy, which long pre-dates current concerns with 'impact'.
- Public Sociology