Margaret Mead

Topics: Anthropology, Margaret Mead, Mary Catherine Bateson Pages: 6 (2093 words) Published: January 5, 2002
Margaret Mead did so much and was so many things including, a great scientist, an explorer, a writer, and a teacher, who educated the human race in numerous and diverse ways. Margaret Mead affected our society in many many different ways, and for this reason her name will be respected in the anthropological fields possibly forever. She was born in Philadelphia on December 16, 1901, and was educated at Barnard College and at Columbia University. In 1926 she became assistant curator of ethnology at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, and she not only served as associate curator, but as curator as well. Mead was the first anthropologist to study child-rearing practices. Her work on learning theory and "Learning Through Imprinting," a method by which children learn, is currently being studied further. (Walker 95-97) Margaret Mead contributed much to the study of primitive people. As an assistant curator of ethnology at the American Museum of Modern History from 1926, she did most of her field work in the South Sea islands, particularly New Guinea, Bali, and Samoa. She was chiefly interested in the problems of temperament and sex in primitive societies. She was interested in learning about how young people grew up and got married in New Guinea, and how they "came of age" in Samoa. Her work has helped us arrive at a much greater understanding of modern adolescents. (Bateson 40-46)

The main thing Mead wanted to learn about, and the main reason why she went to Samoa to do fieldwork, was to learn about adolescence. She had a theory that most agreed with, which was that the biological changes of the adolescence could not be consummated without a large amount of stress and anxiety. They experience psychosomatic and social stress. Conversely, she discovered that adolescence does not have to be such a difficult period in one's life. She saw that is was cultural conditions that made it so strenuous. Mead's Book, "Coming of Age in Samoa," was acknowledged as indicating the beginning of the personality field and the culture field. (Mead 29-33) Margaret Mead was also director of research in contemporary cultures at Columbia University from 1948 to 1950 and professor of anthropology there after 1954. Participating in several field expeditions, Mead conducted her most notable research in New Guinea, Samoa, and Bali as mentioned before. Much of her work was devoted to a study of patterns of child rearing in various cultures. She also analyzed many problems in contemporary American society, particularly those affecting young people. Her interests were varied, including childcare, adolescence, sexual behavior, and American character and culture. Margaret Mead taught generations of Americans about looking carefully and openly at other cultures to understand the complexities of being human. (Bateson 80-83) Margaret Mead brought the serious work of anthropology to public consciousness. Mead studied at Barnard College, where she met the great anthropologist Franz Boas. Franz Boas became her mentor and her advisor when she attended graduate school at Columbia University. Mead's work is largely responsible for the treasures on view in the Museum's Hall of Pacific Peoples. (Mead 92) In addition to her work at the Museum, Margaret Mead taught, and wrote more best selling books. She contributed a regular column to Redbook magazine. She was also lectured, and was frequently interviewed on radio and television. A deeply committed activist, Mead often testified on social issues before the United States Congress and other Government agencies. Mead died in New York City on November 15, 1978. Margaret Mead was an American anthropologist, widely known for her studies of primitive societies and her contributions to social anthropology. She will be remembered everywhere by anthropologist all over the world for this and more. (Walker 88-90)

Mead would often be heard saying things like, "We must cherish the life of all the world."...

Cited: Bateson, Mary Catherine. With a Daughter 's Eye. New York:
William Morrow and Company, Inc, 1984.
Mead, Margaret. Blackberry Winter: My Earlier Years. New
York: Simon and Schuster Publishers, 1972.
Mead, Margaret. Coming of Age in Samoa. New York: Morrow,
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