Famous 20th Century Anthropologists

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 Margaret Mead

Margaret Mead
Famous As: Cultural Anthropologist
Birthdate: December 16, 1901
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US
Died: November 15, 1978

One of the most celebrated anthropologists to have ever existed, Margaret Mead is remembered for his research on a broad range of topics, such as sexual conventions in Western society. Of her 23 books, the most talked-about was the bestseller Coming of Age in Samoa.

 2 Claude Lévi-Strauss

Claude Lévi-Strauss
Famous As: Anthropologist
Birthdate: November 28, 1908
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Brussels, Belgium
Died: October 30, 2009

French social anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss is remembered for his contribution to structural anthropology. His book Tristes Tropiques was based on his research deep in the Brazilian Amazon. While he left France for the U.S. during World War II, he later returned to Paris and received his doctorate.

 3 Bruno Latour

Bruno Latour
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: June 22, 1947
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Beaune, France

Holberg Prize-winning French sociologist and anthropologist Bruno Latour had initially studied theology and even received his PhD in the subject. His later research Ivory Coast drew him to anthropology, and he soon gained fame as a renowned academic in the field, having co-written iconic books such as Laboratory Life.

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 4 Clifford Geertz

Clifford Geertz
Famous As: Anthropologist, University teacher, Sociologist
Birthdate: August 23, 1926
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: San Francisco
Died: October 30, 2006

Clifford Geertz was an anthropologist who strongly supported and influenced the practice of symbolic anthropology. He attended Harvard University, where he completed an interdisciplinary program. He then embarked on an academic career and wrote several theoretical pieces and essays on symbolic anthropology. He has left a strong influence on modern anthropology and communication studies. 

 5 Jane Goodall

Jane Goodall
Famous As: Primatologist
Birthdate: April 3, 1934
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: London, England

Jane Goodall is an English anthropologist and primatologist. Goodall's research proved that chimpanzees could use tools like stalks of grass to fish out termites from termite holes; this also challenged the long-held belief that chimpanzees were vegetarians. Goodall also discovered that chimpanzees are capable of emotions like sorrow and joy. Goodall is also credited with founding the Jane Goodall Institute.

 6 Ruth Benedict

Ruth Benedict
Famous As: Anthropologist, Folklorist, University teacher, Poet, Sociologist, Biographer
Birthdate: June 5, 1887
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: New York City
Died: September 17, 1948

Ruth Benedict was an American folklorist and anthropologist. Benedict, who played an important role in the American Folklore Society, also served as the American Anthropological Association's president; the association gives away an annual prize named after Ruth Benedict. In 2005, she was made an inductee of the National Women's Hall of Fame.

 7 Ann Dunham

Ann Dunham
Famous As: Anthropologist, Barack Obama's Mother
Birthdate: November 29, 1942
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Wichita, Kansas, United States
Died: November 7, 1995
Ann Dunham was the mother of former U.S. President Barack Obama. She was an economic anthropologist and worked for the betterment of rural Indonesian women. She had met Barack Obama Sr. while studying at the University of Hawaii. She had worked with USAID, the Ford Foundation, and Bank Rakyat Indonesia.
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 8 Chris McCandless

Chris McCandless
Famous As: American adventurer
Birthdate: February 12, 1968
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: El Segundo, California, United States
Died: August 18, 1992

Chris McCandless, also known as Alexander Supertramp, was made famous by Jon Krakauer’s book Into the Wild, which was later made into a movie. The adventurer had hitchhiked through Alaska, and later took shelter in an abandoned bus, where he eventually died of starvation and poisoning, cut off from civilization.

 9 Alice Roberts

Alice Roberts
Famous As: Anthropologist
Birthdate: May 19, 1973
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Bristol
Biological anthropologist Alice Roberts has taught at the University of Birmingham and led the charity Humanists UK. She gained fame as the presenter of shows such as Dr. Alice Roberts: Don't Die Young and The Incredible Human Journey. She has also authored books such as The Complete Human Body.

 10 Marcel Mauss

Marcel Mauss
Famous As: Sociologist, Anthropologist
Birthdate: May 10, 1872
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Épinal, Vosges, France
Died: February 10, 1950

Sociologist and anthropologist Marcel Mauss is regarded as the Father of French Ethnology. Shunning his family business, he became influenced by his uncle, sociologist Émile Durkheim. His best-known work remains Essai sur le don, or The Gift. He also influenced Claude Lévi-Strauss, who founded structural anthropology.

 11 E. E. Evans-Pritchard

E. E. Evans-Pritchard
Famous As: Anthropologist
Birthdate: September 21, 1902
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Crowborough, East Sussex, England
Died: September 11, 1973

Social anthropologist E. E. Evans-Pritchard is best remembered for his research on witchcraft, magic, and African cultures. Apart from teaching anthropology at Oxford, his alma, he had also worked in South Sudan and penned books such as Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic Among the Azande. He was also knighted for his achievements.

 12 Carlos Castaneda

Carlos Castaneda
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: December 25, 1925
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Cajamarca, Peru
Died: April 27, 1998

Peruvian-American author and anthropologist Carlos Castaneda was born to unwed parents. He lived a mysterious life, and though believed to be married, he later denied the claim. An expert on shamanism, he was a disciple of sorcerer Don Juan Matus and later penned books such as The Teachings of Don Juan.

 13 David Graeber

David Graeber
Famous As: Anthropologist, Professor
Birthdate: February 12, 1961
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: New York, United States
Died: September 2, 2020

David Graeber, who was a well-known name in the fields of social and economic anthropology, is best remembered for his bestselling book Bullshit Jobs. A lifelong anti-capitalist, he spoke against bureaucracy and also led the Occupy movement. He died abruptly of necrotic pancreatitis, while vacationing in Venice.

 14 Pierre Bourdieu

Pierre Bourdieu
Famous As: Sociologist
Birthdate: August 1, 1930
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Denguin, France
Died: January 23, 2002

Renowned sociologist and intellectual Pierre Bourdieu is best remembered for his theory of habitus. Initially sent to Algeria as part of the French Army, he later taught and conducted ethnographic research there. His best-known work remains La Distinction, and he also inspired a hit French documentary.

 15 Paul Ekman

Paul Ekman
Famous As: Psychologist, Anthropologist, Sociologist, Non-fiction writer, University teacher
Birthdate: February 15, 1934
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Washington, D.C.

 16 Alfred Radcliffe-Brown

Alfred Radcliffe-Brown
Famous As: Anthropologist
Birthdate: January 17, 1881
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Birmingham, England
Died: October 24, 1955

Best known for his work on the pre-industrialized societies, Alfred Radcliffe-Brown visited Andaman Island and Western Australia to study the social structure of the people there, later writing two important books on them. A renowned scholar, he taught at various preeminent universities across the globe before returning to England to establish the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology at Oxford.

 17 Marshall Sahlins

Marshall Sahlins
Famous As: Anthropologist, Educationist, University teacher
Birthdate: December 27, 1930
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Chicago

Born to a Russian immigrant doctor father in Chicago, Marshall Sahlins grew up to be one of the most celebrated cultural anthropologists of the world. The University of Chicago professor is also known for his books such as The Use and Abuse of Biology and Stone Age Economics.

 18 David Harvey

David Harvey
Famous As: Professor of Anthropology & Geography
Birthdate: October 31, 1935
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Gillingham, Kent, England

David Harvey is a  Marxist economic geographer, podcaster, and a fellow of the British Academy. He is currently a distinguished professor of anthropology and geography at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). He has authored many books and essays and is one of the most cited authors of books in the humanities and social sciences.   

 19 René Girard

René Girard
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: December 25, 1923
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Avignon, France
Died: November 4, 2015

René Girard was a French philosopher of social science, literary critic, and historian. Over the years, Girard's work has had an influence on disciplines like philosophy, anthropology, psychology, mythology, theology, economics, sociology, and cultural studies among other important disciplines. In 2006, René Girard was honored by the University of Tübingen with the prestigious Dr. Leopold Lucas Prize.

 20 Talal Asad

Talal Asad
Famous As: anthropologist
Birthdate: 1933 AD
Birthplace: Medina

Sociocultural anthropologist and City University of New York professor Talal Asad is best known for his research on nomads, postcolonialism, and the culture of nations such as Sudan. He has also taught at the universities of Khartoum and Hull, and penned books such as On Suicide Bombing.

 21 Steven Erikson

Steven Erikson
Famous As: Anthropologist, Writer
Birthdate: October 7, 1959
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Toronto

Canadian novelist Steven Erikson is best-known for authoring the widely acclaimed ten-volume epic-fantasy series Malazan Book of the Fallen. Other notable works of Erikson include The Kharkanas Trilogy, a prequel to Malazan Book of the Fallen series; the Willful Child Trilogy, a spoof on Star Trek; and The Witness Trilogy, first novel of which is planned for a November-2021 release.

 22 Louis Leakey

Louis Leakey
Famous As: Paleoanthropologist and Archaeologist
Birthdate: August 7, 1903
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Kabete
Died: October 1, 1972

Son of British missionaries in Kenya, Louis Leakey spent his early days amid the Kikuyu people near Nairobi. With an elite education at Cambridge, he later revolutionized the fields of paleoanthropology and archaeology. His study of fossils in East Africa proved humans were older than previously thought.

 23 Paul Farmer

Paul Farmer
Birthdate: October 26, 1959
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: North Adams, Massachusetts

Paul Farmer is a medical anthropologist and physician, currently serving as the chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He is a co-founder of Partners In Health (PIH), an international non-profit organization. He is a proponent of liberation theology and writes extensively on health and human rights. 

 24 Mary Douglas

Mary Douglas
Famous As: Anthropologist
Birthdate: March 25, 1921
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Sanremo, Italy
Died: May 16, 2007

Best known for her book Purity and Danger, anthropologist Mary Douglas specialized in human culture and comparative religion. Initially employed with the British Colonial Office, she later worked with the matrilineal community of the Lele people of Kasai. She was known to be a devout Catholic.

 25 Victor Turner

Victor Turner
Famous As: Anthropologist, Sociologist
Birthdate: May 28, 1920
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Glasgow
Died: December 18, 1983

Best known for his work on symbols and rituals, British cultural anthropologist Victor Turner embarked on his lifelong study of the Ndembu people when as a young man he went to Zambia to work as a research officer. Spending his entire career studying rituals and rites of passage, he later applied them to world religion, publishing important works on them.  

 26 Gregory Bateson

Gregory Bateson
Famous As: Anthropologist, Philosopher, Sociologist, Psychologist
Birthdate: May 9, 1904
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Grantchester
Died: June 11, 1980

Gregory Bateson was an English anthropologist, social scientist, linguist, and visual anthropologist. Along with his colleagues, he developed the double-bind theory of schizophrenia. Also a cyberneticist, he was part of the core group of the Macy Conferences in Cybernetics. He was a member of philosopher William Irwin Thompson's esoteric nonprofit foundation Lindisfarne Association.  

 27 Geert Hofstede

Geert Hofstede
Famous As: Psychologist, University teacher, Anthropologist, Economist
Birthdate: October 2, 1928
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Haarlem

 28 Michael Taussig

Michael Taussig
Famous As: Anthropologist, University teacher
Birthdate: April 3, 1940
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Sydney

With a medical degree from University of Sydney and a PhD in anthropology from London School of Economics, Michael Taussig is famed for his provocative ethnographic studies and unconventional style of teaching. Best known for his commentaries on Karl Marx, especially in relation to the idea of commodity fetishism, he has also produced several well-researched works on medical anthropology. .

 29 William James Sidis

William James Sidis
Famous As: Notable for his 1920 book The Animate and the Inanimate
Birthdate: April 1, 1898
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Manhattan, New York City, United States
Died: July 17, 1944

 30 Robert Ripley

Robert Ripley
Famous As: Cartoonist
Birthdate: December 25, 1890
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Santa Rosa, California, United States
Died: May 27, 1949

Robert Ripley was a cartoonist and an amateur anthropologist best known for creating the newspaper panel series Ripley's Believe It or Not! The series was later adapted for radio and TV. He lost his father when he was young and began working as a cartoonist at the age of 16. Over the years, he became extremely successful and wealthy. 

 31 Mary Leakey

Mary Leakey
Famous As: Paleoanthropologist
Birthdate: February 6, 1913
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: London, England
Died: December 9, 1996

British paleoanthropologist Mary Leakey had exhibited her interest in drawing and archaeology as a kid. Most of her career was spent working alongside her husband, Louis Leakey. She was in charge of many excavation projects in Kenya. Her discoveries include the first Proconsul skull fossil and 15 new animal species.

 32 Edward T. Hall

Edward T. Hall
Famous As: Anthropologist, Sociologist, University teacher
Birthdate: May 16, 1914
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Webster Groves
Died: July 20, 2009

Edward T. Hall was an anthropologist and cross-cultural researcher best known for developing the concepts of proxemics, monochronic time, and polychronic time. He explored cultural and social cohesion in his research and described how people behave and react in different types of culturally defined personal space. Hall was a colleague of philosopher Marshall McLuhan and architect Buckminster Fuller. 

 33 Kathy Reichs

Kathy Reichs
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: July 7, 1948
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, USA

Kathy Reichs is a forensic anthropologist, academic, and crime writer. She has been certified by the American Board of Forensic Anthropology and is an adjunct professor of anthropology at the University of North Carolina. She is the author of numerous technical books and has also written many novels. She also produced the TV series Bones, based on her works. 

 34 Jim Yong Kim

Jim Yong Kim
Famous As: Physician
Birthdate: December 8, 1959
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Seoul, South Korea

Jim Yong Kim, or Kim Yong, was born in South Korea and later moved to the US, where he grew up to be the president of the World Bank. The physician and anthropologist has also taught at Harvard Medical School, his alma, and co-owns the medical care company Partners in Health.

 35 Nancy Scheper-Hughes

Nancy Scheper-Hughes
Famous As: anthropologist
Birthdate: September 25, 1944
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: New York City

 36 Bronislaw Malinowski

Bronislaw Malinowski
Famous As: Anthropologist, Sociologist
Birthdate: March 15, 1884
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Kraków, Poland
Died: 1942 AD

 37 Gayle Rubin

Gayle Rubin
Famous As: Anthropologist, university teacher, essayist, LGBT rights activist
Birthdate: 1949 AD

Gayle Rubin is a cultural anthropologist known for writing on a wide range of topics, such as feminism, sadomasochism, prostitution, homosexuality, pedophilia, and pornography. She studied at the University of Michigan and was part of early feminist groups. After earning her Ph.D. in anthropology, she began her academic career. She is also associated with several feminist journals. 

 38 Marvin Harris

Marvin Harris
Famous As: Anthropologist, University teacher, Sociologist
Birthdate: August 18, 1927
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: New York City
Died: October 25, 2001

 39 Helen Fisher

Helen Fisher
Famous As: Anthropologist
Birthdate: May 31, 1945
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: United States

Best known for her research on the biological dynamics of love and sex, anthropologist Helen Fisher has also penned iconic self-help books such as Anatomy of Love and Why We Love. She has also worked with match.com, to develop a personality-based compatibility system and has been a TED speaker.

 40 Max Scheler

Max Scheler
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: August 22, 1874
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Munich, Germany
Died: May 19, 1928

 41 Carleton S. Coon

Carleton S. Coon
Famous As: Anthropologist, Archaeologist, Prehistorian
Birthdate: June 23, 1904
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Wakefield
Died: June 3, 1981

Carleton S. Coon was an anthropologist who originated several theories on race. He had a successful academic career and served as the president of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists. He was awarded the Viking Medal in Physical Anthropology. Even though he was a famous anthropologist of his time, his racial theories are dismissed as pseudoscientific in modern anthropology. 

 42 Ralph Linton

Ralph Linton
Famous As: Anthropologist
Birthdate: February 27, 1893
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: December 24, 1953

 43 Donald Johanson

Donald Johanson
Famous As: Anthropologist, Archaeologist, Prehistorian, Paleoanthropologist, University teacher
Birthdate: June 28, 1943
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Chicago

Donald Johanson is a paleoanthropologist. He collaborated with Yves Coppens and Maurice Taieb to discover the fossil of a female hominin australopithecine in the Afar Triangle region of Hadar, Ethiopia. This fossil was named “Lucy". As an academician, he established the Institute of Human Origins in Berkeley. He is the recipient of several awards and honors. 

 44 Ernest Gellner

Ernest Gellner
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: December 9, 1925
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: November 5, 1995

Ernest Gellner was a British-Czech philosopher and social anthropologist who was considered one of the leading theoreticians on nationalism. A prolific author, he was able to attract critical attention with his very first book, Words and Things, in which he fiercely attacked what he called linguistic philosophy. He eventually developed an interest in social anthropologybefore turning his attention to nationalism. 

 45 Napoleon Chagnon

Napoleon Chagnon
Famous As: Anthropologist
Birthdate: August 27, 1938
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Port Austin, Michigan, United States
Died: September 21, 2019

Napoleon Chagnon was a cultural anthropologist considered a pioneer of scientific anthropology. He did long-term ethnographic fieldwork among the Yanomamö indigenous people, in which he used an evolutionary approach to understand social behavior. This work received both praise and criticism, making him a controversial figure. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2012. 

 46 Koenraad Elst

Koenraad Elst
Famous As: Columnist, Anthropologist, Journalist, Writer
Birthdate: August 7, 1959
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Leuven

 47 Eva Justin

Eva Justin
Famous As: Anthropologist
Birthdate: August 23, 1909
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Dresden, Germany
Died: September 11, 1966

 48 Ashley Montagu

Ashley Montagu
Famous As: Anthropologist, University teacher
Birthdate: June 28, 1905
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: London
Died: November 26, 1999

British-American anthropologist Ashley Montagu not only taught at Rutgers and The State University of New Jersey but also wrote UNESCO’s 1950 Statement on Race. He also dabbled in topics such as evolution and child care, and one of his best-known works is The Natural Superiority of Women.

 49 Walter J. Ong

Walter J. Ong
Famous As: Anthropologist, Historian, Writer, University teacher, Catholic priest, Literary critic, Journalist
Birthdate: November 30, 1912
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Kansas City
Died: August 12, 2003

 50 Arjun Appadurai

Arjun Appadurai
Famous As: anthropologist, sociologist
Birthdate: February 4, 1949
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Mumbai

Arjun Appadurai is an anthropologist widely regarded as a major theorist in globalization studies.  Born in India, he migrated to USA as a young man. He received his Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Chicago and embarked on an academic career. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.