Margaret Mead

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Margaret Mead
BirthplacePhiladelphia, Pennsylvania, US
EducationBarnard College (1923) M.A., Columbia University (1924) Ph.D., Columbia University (1929)

Mead, Margaret,

1901–78, American anthropologist, b. Philadelphia, grad. Barnard, 1923, Ph.D. Columbia, 1929. In 1926 she became assistant curator, in 1942 associate curator, and from 1964 to 1969 she was curator of ethnology of the American Museum of Natural History, New York City. After 1954 she served as adjunct professor of anthropology at Columbia. A student and collaborator of Ruth BenedictBenedict, Ruth Fulton,
1887–1948, American anthropologist, b. New York City, grad. Vassar, 1909, Ph.D. Columbia, 1923. She was a student and later a colleague of Franz Boas at Columbia, where she taught from 1924.
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, she focused her interests on problems of child rearing, personality, and culture. Her fieldwork was carried out primarily among the peoples of Oceania. She was also active with the World Federation for Mental Health. A prolific writer and avid speaker who enjoyed engaging the general public, Mead was instrumental in popularizing the anthropological concept of culture with readers in the United States. She also stressed the need for anthropologists to understand the perspective of women and children. Her works include Coming of Age in Samoa (1928), Growing Up in New Guinea (1930), The Changing Culture of an Indian Tribe (1932), Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies (1935), Male and Female (1949), New Lives for Old: Cultural Transformation in Manus, 1928–1953 (1956), People and Places (1959), Continuities in Cultural Evolution (1964), Culture and Commitment (1970), and a biographical account of her early years, Blackberry Winter (1972). She is also the author of a book for young people, People and Places (1959). She edited Cultural Patterns and Technical Change (1953) and a volume of Ruth Benedict's writings, An Anthropologist at Work (1959, repr. 1966).


See studies by Mead's daughter, M. C. Bateson (1985), and by J. Howard (1985).

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Mead, Margaret

(1901–78) cultural anthropologist, author; born in Philadelphia. Daughter of a University of Pennsylvania economist and a feminist political activist, she graduated from Barnard College in 1923 and went on to take a Ph.D. in Franz Boas' program at Columbia University in 1929. Appointed assistant curator of ethnology at the American Museum of Natural History in 1926, she retained the museum connection for more than a half-century. After expeditions to Samoa and New Guinea, she published Coming of Age in Samoa (1928) and Growing Up in New Guinea (1930). Altogether, she made 24 field trips among six South Pacific peoples. She was married and divorced three times; her third husband (1936–50) was anthropologist Gregory Bateson, with whom she collaborated in field research. Her later works included Male and Female (1949) and Growth and Culture (1951), in which she argued that personality characteristics, especially as they differ between men and women, were shaped by cultural conditioning rather than heredity. Some critics called her field work impressionistic, but her writings have proved enduring and have made anthropology accessible to a wider public. In her later years she became one of the best known individuals in America, her presence and opinions sought for every possible occasion.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.