Murdock, George Peter

Murdock, George Peter,

1897–1985, American anthropologist, b. Meriden, Conn., grad. Yale (B.A., 1919; Ph.D., 1925). He taught at Yale and later at the Univ. of Pittsburgh, becoming Mellon Professor of Anthropology there in 1960. He is noted for his work as head of Yale's Human Relations Area Files, where he attempted to classify and index the known cultures of the world. Murdock is best known for his cross-cultural study of African and Oceanic people. He made significant contributions to the study of kinship and social organization. His writings include Social Structure (1949, repr. 1965) and Outline of World Cultures (1954, 6th ed. rev. 1983).

Murdock, George Peter


Born May 11, 1897, in Meriden, Conn. American anthropologist. Representative of the anti-evolutionist (historical) school of ethnology in the USA.

From 1939 to 1960, Murdock was a professor at Yale University. In 1960 he became chairman of the anthropology department at the University of Pittsburgh, and in 1962 editor of the journal Ethnology. Murdock conducted field research on the northwestern coast of North America and in Micronesia. He is the author and editor of numerous works on ethnology, primarily on the social organization of certain primitive peoples. Murdock’s best-known theoretical work, Social Structure (1949), is an attempt to refute L. H. Morgan’s theory of the clan in favor of the theory of multilineal evolution.


Outline of South American Cultures. New Haven, 1951.
Social Structure in Southeast Asia. Chicago, 1960.
Africa: Its People and Their Culture History. New York, 1959.

Murdock, George Peter

(1897–1985) cultural anthropologist; born in Meriden, Conn. He studied at Yale and taught there (1928–60) and at the University of Pittsburgh (1960–71). Working out of the mainstream of the Boasian tradition of his time, he initiated the cross-cultural survey, later known as "human relations area files," as an instrument of anthropological generalization. His best-known work, Social Structure (1949), focused on family and kinship organization over a wide range of societies.
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