Famous American Anthropologists

Find out more about the greatest American Anthropologists, including Joseph Campbell, Ann Dunham, Margaret Mead, Zora Neale Hurston and Franz Boas.

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 Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston.
Famous As: Folklorist, Anthropologist
Birthdate: January 7, 1891
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Notasulga
Died: January 28, 1960

Zora Neale Hurston was an author, anthropologist, and filmmaker. As an African American woman, she often depicted racial issues in the films she made. Her works also reflected her struggles as a black woman. In her early career, she conducted anthropological and ethnographic research and focused more on writing and film-making in her later years.

 2 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.

 3 Franz Boas

Franz Boas.
Famous As: Anthropologist
Birthdate: July 9, 1858
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Minden, Westphalia, Germany
Died: December 21, 1942

Remembered for his research on cultural relativism, German-born American anthropologist Franz Boas is often referred to as the Father of American Anthropology. The son of a merchant, he was a sickly child who grew up reading a lot. He also studied folklore and developed it as an academic discipline.

 4 Ann Dunham

Ann Dunham.
Famous As: Barack Obama's Mother
Birthdate: November 29, 1942
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Wichita, Kansas
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.

 5 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.

 6 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. 

 7 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.

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 8 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.

 9 Edward Sapir

Edward Sapir
Famous As: Anthropologist, Linguist, Sociolinguist, University teacher, Ethnologist
Birthdate: January 26, 1884
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Lębork
Died: February 4, 1939

Edward Sapir was an anthropologist-linguist. He played a pivotal role in the development of the discipline of linguistics in USA. He studied Germanic linguistics at Columbia and later researched Native American languages. He was an expert in the study of Athabascan languages and Chinookan languages. He also worked with Yiddish, Hebrew, and Chinese languages. 

 10 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. 

 11 Lewis Henry Morgan

Lewis Henry Morgan
Birthdate: November 21, 1818
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Aurora
Died: December 17, 1881

Lewis Henry Morgan was a 19th-century lawyer, anthropologist, and social theorist. A contemporary of the European social theorists and philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, he was interested in studying what holds societies together. He originated several theories of social evolution. He was made the president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1880.  

 12 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.

 13 John Wesley Powell

John Wesley Powell.
Famous As: Explorer, Geologist
Birthdate: March 24, 1834
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Mount Morris
Died: September 23, 1902

John Wesley Powell was a geologist and explorer of the American West. He undertook a series of adventures as a young man and later joined the military. He is best known for the three-month-long geographic expedition he undertook down the Green and Colorado rivers. He was made the director of the U.S. Geological Survey in 1881.  

 14 Lothrop Stoddard

Lothrop Stoddard
Famous As: Anthropologist, Political scientist, Historian, Author, Journalist, Opinion journalist
Birthdate: June 29, 1883
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Brookline
Died: May 1, 1950

Twentieth-century American political scientist and historian Lothrop Stoddard was a Ku Klux Klan and believed in eugenics, a theory that promoted the superiority certain races based on genetics. His book The Revolt Against Civilization introduced neo-Nazi concepts. He also covered World War II as a journalist.

 15 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.

 16 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.

 17 Edward S. Curtis

Edward S. Curtis
Famous As: Photographer, Anthropologist
Birthdate: February 16, 1868
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Whitewater
Died: October 19, 1952

Edward S. Curtis was an American ethnologist and photographer whose work focused on the Native American people and American West. He is credited with photographing the first portrait of a Native American. Edward S. Curtis' work aimed at preserving the traditional life of Native Americans.

 18 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. 

 19 Madison Grant

Madison Grant
Famous As: Lawyer, Anthropologist, Racial theorist, Historian, Zoologist
Birthdate: November 19, 1865
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: New York City
Died: May 30, 1937

A lawyer and a zoologist, Madison Grant is best remembered for his belief in eugenics and white supremacy, which he expressed through his best-selling book The Passing of the Great Race. He played a crucial role in the passing of immigration regulations in the U.S. He was also an avid conservationist.

 20 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. 

 21 William Graham Sumner

William Graham Sumner
Famous As: Anthropologist, Political scientist, Historian, Sociologist, Philosopher, University teacher
Birthdate: October 30, 1840
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Paterson, New Jersey
Died: April 12, 1910

William Graham Sumner was an American social scientist who held America's first professorship in sociology; he served as a professor of social sciences at Yale. Sumner, who wrote several essays and books on American history, political theory, sociology, and economic history, was one of the most popular and influential teachers at Yale. He also had an influence on American conservatism.

 22 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. 

 23 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. 

 24 Benjamin Lee Whorf

Benjamin Lee Whorf
Famous As: Anthropologist, Linguist
Birthdate: April 24, 1897
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Winthrop, Massachusetts
Died: July 26, 1941

Benjamin Lee Whorf was a linguist cum fire prevention engineer. Along with his mentor Edward Sapir, he developed what is frequently called the “Sapir–Whorf hypothesis.” Even though he was a chemical engineer by profession, he developed an early interest in linguistics and presented several papers at linguistics conferences. Unfortunately, he died at the relatively young age of 44. 

 25 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. 

 26 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. 

 27 Earnest Hooton

Earnest Hooton
Famous As: Anthropologist
Birthdate: November 20, 1887
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Oshkosh, Wisconsin, United States
Died: May 3, 1954

Earnest Hooton was a physical anthropologist. He worked extensively in the field of racial classification and used comparative anatomy to divide humanity up into races. He studied at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and took up a teaching career. A popular public figure, he was a co-founder of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists. He also published poems and drawings. 

 28 Nancy Scheper-Hughes

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

 29 Dell Hymes

Dell Hymes
Famous As: Anthropologist, Linguist, University teacher, Sociologist
Birthdate: June 7, 1927
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Portland
Died: November 13, 2009

Dell Hymes was part of some of the pioneering studies on linguistic anthropology and sociolinguistics, and later focused on ethnopoetics and the SPEAKING model. He also founded the journal Language in Society and served as its editor. In his later career, he was accused of sexual harassment.

 30 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. 

 31 Harold Courlander

Harold Courlander
Birthdate: 0000 AD

Apart from being an anthropologist and folklorist, Harold Courlander was also a skilled author. After a trip to Haiti to conduct studies for his new novel, Courlander became attached to the country’s culture and preserved it in his books. Parts of his novel The African were later plagiarized by another author.

 32 Ralph Linton

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

 33 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

 34 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

 35 Alfred L. Kroeber

Alfred L. Kroeber.
Famous As: Cultural Anthropologist
Birthdate: June 11, 1876
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Hoboken, New Jersey
Died: October 5, 1960

 36 Loren Eiseley

Loren Eiseley
Famous As: Anthropologist, Philosopher, Poet
Birthdate: September 3, 1907
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Lincoln
Died: July 9, 1977

 37 Michael Tomasello

Michael Tomasello
Famous As: Anthropologist, Psychologist
Birthdate: January 18, 1950
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Bartow

 38 Spencer Wells

Spencer Wells
Famous As: Geneticist
Birthdate: April 6, 1969
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Marietta

Renowned population geneticist Spencer Wells is best known for his study of human diversity. His analysis has led him to believe that all humans have descended from a single man from Africa, the Y-chromosomal Adam, who lived around 60,000-90,000 years back. He has also headed National Geographic’s Genographic Project.

 39 Scott Atran

Scott Atran
Famous As: anthropologist, political scientist
Birthdate: 1952 AD
Birthplace: New York City

 40 George Murdock

George Murdock
Famous As: Anthropologist
Birthdate: May 11, 1897
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Meriden, Connecticut, United States
Died: March 29, 1985

 41 Arturo Escobar

Arturo Escobar
Famous As: anthropologist
Birthdate: 1952 AD
Birthplace: Manizales

 42 Lewis Binford

Lewis Binford
Famous As: Archaeologist
Birthdate: November 21, 1931
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Norfolk, Virginia, United States
Died: April 11, 2011

 43 Clyde Kluckhohn

Clyde Kluckhohn
Famous As: Anthropologist
Birthdate: January 11, 1905
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Le Mars, Iowa, United States
Died: July 28, 1960

 44 Leslie White

Leslie White
Famous As: Anthropologist
Birthdate: January 19, 1900
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Salida, Colorado, United States
Died: March 31, 1975

 45 Melville J. Herskovits

Melville J. Herskovits
Famous As: Anthropologist
Birthdate: September 10, 1895
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Bellefontaine, Ohio, United States
Died: February 25, 1963

 46 Sidney Mintz

Sidney Mintz
Famous As: Anthropologist, University teacher
Birthdate: November 16, 1922
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Dover
Died: December 26, 2015

 47 Robert Redfield

Robert Redfield
Famous As: Anthropologist
Birthdate: December 4, 1897
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States
Died: October 16, 1958

 48 Pearl Primus

Pearl Primus
Famous As: Dancer
Birthdate: November 29, 1919
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
Died: October 29, 1994

 49 Philippe Bourgois

Philippe Bourgois
Famous As: anthropologist
Birthdate: 1956 AD

 50 Tim D. White

Tim D. White
Famous As: Anthropologist, Archaeologist, Prehistorian, Paleoanthropologist, University teacher
Birthdate: August 24, 1950
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Los Angeles