Karl Schuessler was born in 1915 in Quincy, Illinois. He moved to Evansville at an early age and after high school, he attended Evansville College, from which he graduated in 1936 with a B.A. in history and government. Schuessler completed his M.A. in social sciences in 1939 at the University of Chicago and went on to work as a sociologist at the Illinois State Penitentiary. In 1940, Schuessler came to Indiana University as a doctoral student in sociology. Between 1942 and 1946, he interrupted his study and served in the Navy during World War II. After his return, he completed his Ph.D., earning his degree in 1947. His dissertation dealt with the impact of socioeconomic background on musical taste, and upon graduation, he joined the faculty of Indiana University. Between 1961 and 1969, he chaired the Department of Sociology, and in 1976 he was named distinguished professor.
Schuessler was well-known for his study of criminology during the 1930’s and 1940’s. During this time, he chaired the Research Advisory Committee in the Indiana Department of Corrections, and he served as a member of the Governor’s Commission on Mental Health and as a member of the Population Statistics Advisory Committee of the Indiana Department of Public Health. Schuessler coauthored the book Statistical Reasoning in Sociology, published Analyzing Social Data, and coedited Social Policy and Sociology. He also served as editor of American Sociological Review journal from 1969 to 1971, and Sociological Methodology from 1977 to 1979. His Measuring Social Life Feelings was published in 1982 and was awarded best book authored by a sociologist by the North Central Sociological Association in 1984. In 2003, the Institute of Social Research was named in honor of Distinguished Professor Emeritus Karl Schuessler. Schuessler died on December 26, 2005 at the age of 90.