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Ferdinand Tönnies (26 July 1855 – 9 April 1936) was a German sociologist, economist, and philosopher. Ferdinand Tönnies was a major contributor to sociological theory and field studies, best known for his distinction between two types of social groups, Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft (community and society). Ferdinand Tönnies co-founded the German Society for Sociology together with Max Weber and Georg Simmel and many other founders. He was president of the society from 1909 to 1933, after which he was ousted for having criticized the Nazis.
Tönnies was considered the first German sociologist proper, published over 900 works and contributed to many areas of sociology and philosophy. Ferdinand Tönnies, Max Weber, and Georg Simmel are considered to be the founding fathers of classical German sociology. His writings on sociological theories, which included Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft (1887), furthered pure sociology. He coined the metaphysical term Voluntarism.
Ferdinand Tönnies also contributed to the study of social change, public opinion, customs and technology, crime, and suicide. He also had a vivid interest in methodology, especially statistics, and sociological research, inventing his own technique of statistical association. After publishing Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft, Tönnies focused aspects of the social life such as morals, folkways, and public opinion. Ferdinand Tönnies figures among eminent sociologists of the world.