Strangers to Us All
Lawyers and Poetry

Spencer Heath


We learned that Spencer Heath was a lawyer/poet from his grandson, Spencer Heath MacCallum:

My grandfather, Spencer Heath (1876-1963), was an engineer, lawyer, poet, philosopher of science, and social philosopher, as well as a pioneer in early aviation, developing the first machine mass production of airplane propellers in 1912, and ten years later demonstrating at Boling Field the first engine power and controlled variable and reversible pitch propeller. Heath was awakened to social issues as a young man by Edward Bellamy's widely influential novel Looking Backward, in which the author set forth compellingly his socialist vision of the future. Rejecting that after six months and looking for something more workable, Heath found himself attracted to Henry George's emphasis on free trade. This began a 35-year association with the Georgist movement, which focused his attention on land. Pondering George's propsal that government collect and disburse all land rents, Heath came to recognize the importance of the private administration of land as productive capital. He outlined this new perspective in 1936 in Politics versus Proprietorship, and elaborated on it in his main work on society, Citadel, Market, and Altar: Emerging Society, Outline of Socionomy, the New Naural Science of Society (Baltimore, Md.: Science of Society Foundation, 1957). Heath's published and unpublished writings are administered by the Heather Foundation, Box 180, Tonopah, Nevada 89049.

Spencer Heath MacCallum, The Enterprise of Community: Market Competiton, Land, and Environment, 17 (4) Journal of Liberatarian Studies 1 (2004).

    The following biographical profile of Spencer Heath appears in Alvin Lowi, Jr.'s "The Legacy of Spencer Heath: A Former Student Remembers the Man and Offers Some Observations on the Scientific Orientation of His Work," which Lowi indicates should be credited to Heath's grandson, Spencer Heath MacCullum:

    "Born in Vienna, Virginia in 1876, Heath completed his technical training at the Corcoran Scientific School in Washington, D.C. and went to Chicago where he embarked on a career in electrical and mechanical engineering. In 1898 he married Johanna Maria Holm, suffragist and life-long friend of Susan B. Anthony. They made their home in Washington, where Heath worked for the Navy Department by day designing coaling stations around the world while attending National University Law School at night, eventually receiving his LL.B. and LL.M. degrees. He became a patent lawyer and associated as patent counsel and engineering consultant with numerous clients including Christopher and Simon Lake, inventors of the even-keel-submerging submarine, and Emile Berliner, inventor of the flat-disk phonograph record and the loose-contact telephone transmitter. Heath assisted Berliner by designing and building the rotary blades with which Berliner demonstrated the helicopter principle for the first time, showing that rotary blades could lift the weight of an engine. This sparked in Heath an interest in aerodynamics, and he soon established research, development and manufacturing facilities for various aeronautical specialties.

    Prior to World War I, he developed the first machine mass production of aircraft propellers (replacing the men who stood at a bench and carved out propellers by hand) under the "Paragon" trademark, in consequence of which his American Propeller and Manufacturing Company in Baltimore supplied more than three quarters of the propellers used by the Allied governments in that conflict. Under the name "Paragon Engineers," he developed and demonstrated at Boling Field in 1922 the first engine-powered, controllable and reversible pitch propeller.

    At about this time he built a home, Roadsend Gardens, on Lawyers Hill Road, Elkridge, Maryland, where he experimented in horticulture in addition to operating, until World War II, a commercial nursery specializing in ornamental evergreens. In 1929 he sold his aeronautical patents and technical facilities to Bendix Aviation Corporation with whom he continued for two years as a research engineer, retiring in 1931 to Roadsend Gardens to concentrate on research into the foundations of the natural sciences with the aim of establishing the basis for an authentic natural science of society.

    In 1932 he aided Oscar Geiger in founding The Henry George School of Social Science in New York City. For several years he lectured at the School and conducted public seminars on basic community organization and social functioning in terms of reciprocal energy exchange. In 1936 he privately published a monograph, Politics versus Proprietorship, presenting proprietorship as the alternative to politics and containing the first statement of the proprietary community principle. He completed his major work, Citadel, Market and Altar, in 1946, eventually publishing it through his own Science of Society Foundation, Inc. in 1957. Heath is also remembered for Progress and Poverty Reviewed, a polemic published by The Freeman in 1953 containing a critique of Henry George's land argument; for his privately printed and circulated "Solution to the Suez" (1953); and as a poet and speaker on esthetics and creativity.

    He was a member of The Aero Club of America, the Newcomen Society and the Society of Automotive Engineers (serving on the Engineering Standards Committee). His articles on aeronautical engineering appeared in the Journal of the American Society of Naval Engineers, the Journal of the Franklin Institute and other technical journals. He was listed in International Who's Who 1947-1949 and Who's Who in the East 1948-1951. He made his home at Roadsend Gardens, Elkridge, Maryland, and maintained an office at 11 Waverly Place, New York City. He was survived by three daughters, Marguerite McConkey, Lucile MacCallum and Beatrice O'Connell."

    Spencer Heath died on October 7th, 1963, at Leesburg, Virginia.

    Note: My thanks to Alvin Lowi, Jr. for this biographical information and for his permission to use it here.

    Spencer Heath

    The Legacy of Spencer Heath
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    Spencer Heath, Politics versus Proprietorship (Elkridge, Maryland: Spencer Health, 1936)

    ___________, Progress and Poverty Reviewed and Its Fallacies Exposed (New York: The Freeman, 1952)

    ___________, Citadel, Market, and Altar: Emerging Society, Outline of Socionomy, the New Natural Science of Society (Baltimore, Maryland: Science of Society Foundation, 1957)

    Research Resources

    Spencer Heath Papers
    George Mason University
    Fairfax, Virginia