I spent years in graduate school reading Robert Merton's sociology of science: I trucked his collection of essays The Sociology of Science (which I bought in an excellent little overstuffed bookstore on the edge of campus) around with me from Penn to Williams to Stanford to Berkeley to Davis to Chicago and back to California, and had his work assigned in any number of classes.

In all those years, I never realized that he had a second intellectual life as, essentially, a futurist; or more specifically, as a scholar of ideas that we use in everyday thinking about the future. But a few weeks ago I found a 1936 article of his on "The Unanticipated Consequences of Purposive Social Action" when researching a piece on unintended consequences. So it should really come as no surprise, when I idly searched for scholarly works on the concept of "self-fulfilling prophecies" that Merton would have written one of the definitive articles, this time in the Antioch Review in 1948 (it's available on JSTOR).

His generation of social scientists– along with contemporaries like John Kenneth Galbraith, Daniel Bell, Robert Hielbroner, and Donald Michael (now less well-known but still very interesting)– really knew how to ask big questions that connected contemporary issues with futures.