White, Leslie A.

White, Leslie A. (Alvin)

(1900–75) social anthropologist; born in Salida, Colo. He studied at Columbia University, the New School for Social Research, and the University of Chicago, and he taught at the University of Michigan for more than 30 years. He carried out extensive fieldwork among the Pueblo Indians from 1926 to 1957. In his book The Science of Culture (1949), and other works, he propounded a theory of cultural evolution—in particular, that culture advances as technological efficiency in using environmental energy sources increases. Although not immediately adopted, White's theory came to be one of the more influential attempts at explaining early New World societies.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.