Famous American Anthropologists

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Find out more about the greatest American Anthropologists, including Joseph Campbell, Ann Dunham, Margaret Mead, Zora Neale Hurston and Franz Boas.
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 1 
Dian Fossey
(Zoologist, Conservationist)
Dian Fossey
10
Birthdate: January 16, 1932
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: San Francisco, California, United States
Died: December 26, 1985
Zoologist, primatologist, and conservationist Dian Fossey conducted research on mountain gorillas in Rwanda from 1966 until she was murdered in 1985. She was part of the Trimates assigned to study apes by paleoanthropologist Louis Leakey. She wrote Gorillas in the Mist, which was later turned into a film.
 2 
Zora Neale Hurston
(Folklorist, Anthropologist)
Zora Neale Hurston
14
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.

 3 
Margaret Mead
(Cultural Anthropologist)
Margaret Mead
10
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.

 4 
Franz Boas
(German–American Anthropologist and a Pioneer of Modern Anthropology)
Franz Boas
4
Birthdate: July 9, 1858
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Minden, 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.

 5 
Ann Dunham
(American Anthropologist and Mother of Former United States President, Barack Obama)
Ann Dunham
8
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.
 6 
Clifford Geertz
(Anthropologist, University teacher, Sociologist)
Clifford Geertz
4
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 
Ruth Benedict
(Anthropologist, Folklorist, University teacher, Poet, Sociologist, Biographer)
Ruth Benedict
3
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.

 8 
Kathy Reichs
(Forensic Anthropologist Who Used Her Expertise to Write the Bestselling Crime Novel, 'Break No Bones')
Kathy Reichs
8
Birthdate: July 7, 1948
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States

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. 

 9 
Paul Farmer
(American Medical Anthropologist)
Paul Farmer
4
Birthdate: October 26, 1959
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: North Adams, Massachusetts
Died: February 21, 2022

Paul Farmer was a medical anthropologist and physician, who was a co-founder of Partners In Health (PIH), an international non-profit organization. He was a proponent of liberation theology and wrote extensively on health and human rights. 

 10 
Jim Yong Kim
(American Physician and Anthropologist Who Served as the 12th President of the World Bank (2012 - 2019))
Jim Yong Kim
4
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.

 11 
Edward Sapir
(Anthropologist, Linguist, Sociolinguist, University teacher, Ethnologist)
Edward Sapir
3
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. 

 12 
Carlos Castaneda
(Author and Anthropologist Known for His Book ‘The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge’)
Carlos Castaneda
8
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
(Anthropologist, Professor)
David Graeber
8
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 
John Wesley Powell
(Explorer, Geologist)
John Wesley Powell
6
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.  

 15 
Talal Asad
(Anthropologist known for his writing calling for the anthropology of secularism)
Talal Asad
3
Birthdate: 1932
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Medina, Saudi Arabia

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.

 16 
Gregory Bateson
(Anthropologist, Philosopher, Sociologist, Psychologist)
Gregory Bateson
4
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.  

 17 
Robert Ripley
(American Cartoonist and Creator of the Newpaper Panel Series 'Ripley’s Believe It or Not!')
Robert Ripley
3
Birthdate: February 25, 1890
Sun Sign: Pisces
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. 

 18 
Edward S. Curtis
(Former photographer and ethnologist whose work focused on the American West and on Native American people)
Edward S. Curtis
5
Birthdate: February 19, 1868
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Whitewater, Wisconsin, United States
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.

 19 
Edward T. Hall
(Anthropologist, Sociologist, University teacher)
Edward T. Hall
3
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. 

Lewis Henry Morgan
5
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.  

 21 
Marshall Sahlins
(Anthropologist, Educationist, University teacher)
Marshall Sahlins
5
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.

 22 
William Graham Sumner
(Anthropologist, Political scientist, Writer)
William Graham Sumner
5
Birthdate: October 30, 1840
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Paterson, New Jersey, United States
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.

 23 
Gayle Rubin
(Cultural anthropologist best known as an activist and theorist of sex and gender politics)
Gayle Rubin
5
Birthdate: January 1, 1949
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: South Carolina, United States

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
(Anthropologist, Linguist)
Benjamin Lee Whorf
3
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 
Ernest Becker
(Former anthropologist known for Eliciting the creation of Terror Management Theory)
Ernest Becker
3
Birthdate: September 27, 1924
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States
Died: March 6, 1974
 26 
Helen Fisher
(Anthropologist)
Helen Fisher
3
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.

 27 
Marvin Harris
(Anthropologist, University teacher, Sociologist)
Marvin Harris
3
Birthdate: August 18, 1927
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: New York City
Died: October 25, 2001
 28 
Carleton S. Coon
(Anthropologist, Archaeologist, Prehistorian)
Carleton S. Coon
5
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. 

 29 
Donald Johanson
(Anthropologist, Archaeologist, Prehistorian, Paleoanthropologist, University teacher)
Donald Johanson
3
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. 

 30 
Lothrop Stoddard
(Anthropologist, Political scientist, Historian, Author, Journalist, Opinion journalist)
Lothrop Stoddard
4
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.

 31 
Madison Grant
(Lawyer, anthropologist, writer, and zoologist known primarily for his work as a eugenicist and conservationist)
Madison Grant
3
Birthdate: November 19, 1865
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: New York, United States
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.

 32 
Napoleon Chagnon
(American Cultural Anthropologist Known for His Studies of the Indigenous Yanomami People of the Amazon Rain Forest)
Napoleon Chagnon
3
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. 

 33 
Nancy Scheper-Hughes
(anthropologist)
Nancy Scheper-Hughes
4
Birthdate: September 25, 1944
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: New York City
 34 
Ashley Montagu
(Anthropologist, University teacher)
Ashley Montagu
3
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.

Harold Courlander
3

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.

 36 
Loren Eiseley
(Anthropologist, Philosopher, Poet)
Loren Eiseley
3
Birthdate: September 3, 1907
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Lincoln
Died: July 9, 1977
 37 
Walter J. Ong
(Anthropologist, Historian, Writer, University teacher, Catholic priest, Literary critic, Journalist)
Walter J. Ong
3
Birthdate: November 30, 1912
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Kansas City
Died: August 12, 2003
 38 
Alfred L. Kroeber
(Cultural Anthropologist)
Alfred L. Kroeber
4
Birthdate: June 11, 1876
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Hoboken, New Jersey, United States
Died: October 5, 1960
 39 
Ralph Linton
(Anthropologist)
Ralph Linton
2
Birthdate: February 27, 1893
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: December 24, 1953
 40 
Earnest Hooton
(American Physical Anthropologist Known for His Work on Racial Classification)
Earnest Hooton
3
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. 

 41 
Dell Hymes
(One of the First Sociolinguists to Pioneer the Connection Between Speech and Social Relations)
Dell Hymes
3
Birthdate: June 7, 1927
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Portland, Oregon, United States
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.

 42 
Eric Wolf
(American Anthropologist Best Known for His Studies of Peasants)
Eric Wolf
3
Birthdate: February 1, 1923
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Vienna, Austria
Died: March 6, 1999

Anthropologist Eric Robert Wolf is noted for his studies of Latin America and peasants, and for advocating Marxist outlook within anthropology. Notable books of Wolf include The Hidden Frontier, his classic study of ethnography with his student John W. Cole; and Europe and the People Without History, where he focussed on the expansion of European societies in the modern era.  

 43 
Michael Tomasello
(Anthropologist, Psychologist)
Michael Tomasello
3
Birthdate: January 18, 1950
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Bartow
 44 
George Murdock
(Anthropologist)
George Murdock
3
Birthdate: May 11, 1897
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Meriden, Connecticut, United States
Died: March 29, 1985
 45 
Clyde Kluckhohn
(Anthropologist)
Clyde Kluckhohn
2
Birthdate: January 11, 1905
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Le Mars, Iowa, United States
Died: July 28, 1960
 46 
Leslie White
(Anthropologist)
Leslie White
3
Birthdate: January 19, 1900
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Salida, Colorado, United States
Died: March 31, 1975
 47 
Lila Abu-Lughod
(Anthropologist)
Lila Abu-Lughod
0
Birthdate: October 21, 1952
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: United States
 48 
Scott Atran
(anthropologist, political scientist)
Scott Atran
3
Birthdate: 1952 AD
Birthplace: New York City
 49 
Arturo Escobar
(anthropologist)
Arturo Escobar
3
Birthdate: 1952 AD
Birthplace: Manizales
 50 
Anthony F.C. Wallace
(Anthropologist)
Anthony F.C. Wallace
2
Birthdate: April 15, 1923
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Toronto, Canada
Died: October 5, 2015