Margaret Mead (1901-1978)

American anthropologist. Mead's classic Coming Of Age In Samoa had a major impact on American views of race, culture, and the nature/nurture controversy, convincing many that the psychosexual conflicts of adolescence were culturally determined and had no genetic basis. The book therefore won a key battle in the conflict matching Boasian anthropologists and Watsonian behaviorists against Osbornian eugenicists and neo-Lamarckians. Ironically, Coming Of Age was based on just six months of superficial research - Mead's first field work of any kind - and were much later shown to have severely misrepresented the violent, sexually repressed, and conflict-ridden nature of Samoan culture. Mead never returned to Samoa to conduct field work, instead focusing on other parts of Oceania like New Guinea during her lengthy, high-profile career at the American Museum. Mead was close to the slightly older Benedict at Columbia and the AMNH; Simpson and Mead also overlapped for decades at the museum, but got along poorly.


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