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This introduction provides an overview of the life, career, and social thought of Gerhard Lenski. Following a preliminary description of Lenski's contributions, this essay is divided into two sections. The first section examines the origins, education, and biographical influences on Lenski as a major social theorist as well as the intellectual foundation of his sociological theories. The second section presents Lenski's work, impact, and legacy and sets the stage for the original essays that are grouped around four of six key areas of Lenski's work, which has had enormous impact on both American and international sociology: (1) teaching sociology; (2)“status crystallization” and “status inconsistency”; (3) sociology of religion and “the religious factor”; (4) social stratification, “power and privilege”; (5) gender stratification in comparative-historical perspective; and (6) ecological-evolutionary theory. While these six areas do not correspond neatly to the progressive phases of Lenski's theory development and sociological career, they are interconnected and reflect Lenski's central concerns in asking the big questions about human societies and in providing explanations for understanding the processes of social change, differentiation, and inequality among and within human societies, across time and space, from hunting and gathering to postindustrial societies.