Ilse Zeisel (Williams)
Social scientist, market and opinion researcher
Ilse Zeisel was a social scientist working primarily on market and opinion research. She was born in Bohemia and moved to Vienna with her family when she was a child. As an adolescent, she joined the social democratic youth movement in Vienna. Thus she became part of a network of social scientists connected toPaul F. Lazarsfeld, which proved significant for her life and career on both sides of the Atlantic.
At Vienna University, Ilse Zeisel studied philosophy, English, and psychology. In the early 1930s, she was a member of the research team that conducted the seminal study of the psychosocial consequences of unemployment, published in Die Arbeitslosen von Marienthal. During those years, she also worked as a market researcher and journalist.
In 1938, Ilse Zeisel immigrated to the United States. At Columbia University, she studied with Paul F. Lazarsfeld and Robert K. Merton, and became the supervisor in Lazarsfeld’s Bureau of Applied Social Research. Over the course of her career, she worked with a number of market research and advertising companies, such as Market Research Company of America, Market Impact Research, Inc., and Foote, Cone & Belding. She also established her own research institute, Ilse Zeisel Research. Ilse Zeisel brought European academic training and research experience to the United States, where she expanded and adapted it to new settings and demands. Like many other émigré women social scientists, she turned to applied social science in the United States, an area whose practitioners are traditionally less well-known than university-based academics.