The phrase “properties of numbers” survives in many minds from their earliest encounters with arithmetic. Whether or not it was good pedagogy to use the phrase we will not inquire, but the idea and the program behind the phrase may furnish an analogy for our present use. The boy who simply makes change for the papers he sells on the street corner has this at least in common with Newton, and Laplace, and the bookkeepers, and the actuaries, and the engineers, who carry on the most complicated mathematical calculations, viz., they are concerned with the “properties of numbers.” So far as the problems of each go, they must learn, somehow or other, to know the properties of numbers under all circumstances where they occur. In like manner, people who seek social intelligence, whether they are street gamins hustling for a living with help from nobody, or social philosophers attempting to report the past and to foretell the future of the human family, all are dealing with the properties of persons. Just as the chemist must very early get familiar with certain primary facts about his “elements,” their specific gravity, their atomicity, their relation to oxygen, etc., etc.; so the sociologist, whether amateur or professional, must early get a working knowledge of the essential peculiarities of persons. Sociology accordingly involves first of all a technique for detecting, classifying, criticising, measuring, and correlating human interests, first with reference to their past and present manifestations, and second with reference to their indications for the future. The sociological study that is provided for in university courses is  not like the instruction in law, which is calculated to make men the most effective practitioners under the code that now exists. All our programs of sociological study are more like the courses in pure and applied mathematics which a West Point student is obliged to take. They are not expected to give him specific knowledge of the situations which he may encounter in a campaign. They are supposed to make him familiar with the elements out of which all possible military situations are composed, with the means of calculating all relationships that may occur between these elements, and with the necessary processes of controlling theoretical and practical dealings with these elements under any circumstances whatsoever. (Small 1905:437-8)
SMALL, Albion. 1905. General Sociology. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.