An anthropologist focuses on the study of human societies and human nature. Some of the famous anthropologists who contributed in understanding the modern concept of anthropology are Franz Boas, Ruth Benedict, Ralph Linton, Margaret Mead, etc.
Anthropology is a discipline that deals with the study of humans and human nature. It is a diverse subject, encompassing all the major aspects of humans (Homo sapiens). Anthropology is classified into four branches: biological anthropology, archeology, cultural anthropology, and anthropological linguistics. People who specialize in any of these branches are referred to as anthropologists. They focus on the growth, development, and interaction of cultures. A comparison of various cultures of the world is also carried out in order to examine the interrelationship between them.
Some Famous Anthropologists
Franz Boas (1858 – 1942)
Franz Boas, honored as the founder of modern anthropology and the father of American anthropology, was born on July 9, 1858, in Germany. Boas was remembered as the first person to apply scientific knowledge in studying society and human culture. He extensively studied the Kwakiutl Indians, which led him to establish the relationship between culture and race. According to Boas, a collection of data from every aspect was the most important element for understanding the culture. His major publications include The Mind of Primitive Man (1911), Anthropology and Modern Life (1928), and Race, Language, and Culture (1940).
Bronislaw Malinowski (1884 – 1942)
Born in Poland on April 7, 1884, he is known as the father of social anthropology, and was responsible for establishing the concept of participant observation. He argued that only through direct and daily contact with a culture, could you come to understand it in all its varied facets. His study of the Kula exchange system between the Milne Bay province and Papua New Guinea, eventually led to the development of the theory of reciprocity. He also advocated functionalism, that refers to the fact that culture evolves in order to satisfy each individuals needs, rather than those of the society. His most noted publications include Argonauts of the Western Pacific (1922), A Scientific Theory of Culture (1922), and Sex and Repression in Savage Society (1927).
Margaret Mead (1901 – 1978)
Margaret Mead, a pioneer of cultural anthropology, was born on December 16, 1901, in Philadelphia. She contributed a lot in understanding the modern concepts of western and American culture. Mead published several books on contemporary issues and primitive societies. She was a strong supporter of women’s rights. Her most renowned works are Coming of Age in Samoa (1928), Growing Up in New Guinea (1930), Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies (1935), and Blackberry Winter: My Earlier years (1972).
Ruth Benedict (1877 – 1948)
Ruth Benedict, a famous American cultural anthropologist, was born on June 5, 1877, in New York City. She was a student of Franz Boas, whose ideology was clearly evident in her work. Benedict’s most noted work was the Patterns of Culture (1934), in which she stated that every culture has originated from human potentialities over a period of time. She is remembered as one of the pioneers to apply anthropology in studying the aspects of advanced societies. Other significant publications include Zuni Mythology (1935), Race: Science and Politics (1940), and The Chrysanthemum and the Sword: Patterns of Japanese Culture (1946).
Ralph Linton (1893 – 1953)
Ralph Linton, a famous cultural anthropologist, was born on February 27, 1893, in Philadelphia. He started his career as an archeologist and conducted extensive research in ethnography of various regions, including Madagascar. After receiving his doctoral degree, Linton published The Tanala, a Hill Tribe of Madagascar in 1933. He unraveled the distinction between status and role, which is one of the major landmarks in anthropology. Linton’s most renowned works include The Study of Man (1936) and The Tree of Culture (1955).
Claude Lévi-Strauss (1908 – 2009)
Born on 28 November, 1908, in Paris, Claude Lévi-Strauss studied law and philosophy. Though he continued his further studies in philosophy, structural anthropology was his major interest. His major works include Structural Anthropology (1958) and Totemism (1962), The Raw and the Cooked (1969), and The Savage Mind (1972). Lévi-Strauss developed the theory of binary opposites; for example, good vs. bad, raw vs. cooked, etc. According to him, culture is a system of communication in the society. He interpreted human culture on the basis of linguistics, information theory, and cybernetics.