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The Most Famous

ANTHROPOLOGISTS from United States

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This page contains a list of the greatest American Anthropologists. The pantheon dataset contains 69 Anthropologists, 23 of which were born in United States. This makes United States the birth place of the most number of Anthropologists.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary American Anthropologists of all time. This list of famous American Anthropologists is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of American Anthropologists.

Photo of Lewis H. Morgan

1. Lewis H. Morgan (1818 - 1881)

With an HPI of 68.86, Lewis H. Morgan is the most famous American Anthropologist.  His biography has been translated into 46 different languages on wikipedia.

Lewis Henry Morgan (November 21, 1818 – December 17, 1881) was a pioneering American anthropologist and social theorist who worked as a railroad lawyer. He is best known for his work on kinship and social structure, his theories of social evolution, and his ethnography of the Iroquois. Interested in what holds societies together, he proposed the concept that the earliest human domestic institution was the matrilineal clan, not the patriarchal family. Also interested in what leads to social change, he was a contemporary of the European social theorists Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, who were influenced by reading his work on social structure and material culture, the influence of technology on progress. Morgan is the only American social theorist to be cited by such diverse scholars as Marx, Charles Darwin, and Sigmund Freud. Elected as a member of the National Academy of Sciences, Morgan served as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1880.Morgan was a Republican member of the New York State Assembly (Monroe Co., 2nd D.) in 1861, and of the New York State Senate in 1868 and 1869.

Photo of Margaret Mead

2. Margaret Mead (1901 - 1978)

With an HPI of 68.72, Margaret Mead is the 2nd most famous American Anthropologist.  Her biography has been translated into 66 different languages.

Margaret Mead (December 16, 1901 – November 15, 1978) was an American cultural anthropologist who featured frequently as an author and speaker in the mass media during the 1960s and the 1970s.She earned her bachelor's degree at Barnard College of Columbia University and her M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Columbia. Mead served as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1975.Mead was a communicator of anthropology in modern American and Western culture and was often controversial as an academic. Her reports detailing the attitudes towards sex in South Pacific and Southeast Asian traditional cultures influenced the 1960s sexual revolution. She was a proponent of broadening sexual conventions within the context of Western cultural traditions.

Photo of Ruth Benedict

3. Ruth Benedict (1887 - 1948)

With an HPI of 66.41, Ruth Benedict is the 3rd most famous American Anthropologist.  Her biography has been translated into 45 different languages.

Ruth Fulton Benedict (June 5, 1887 – September 17, 1948) was an American anthropologist and folklorist. She was born in New York City, attended Vassar College, and graduated in 1909. After studying anthropology at the New School of Social Research under Elsie Clews Parsons, she entered graduate studies at Columbia University in 1921, where she studied under Franz Boas. She received her Ph.D. and joined the faculty in 1923. Margaret Mead, with whom she shared a romantic relationship, and Marvin Opler were among her students and colleagues. Benedict was president of the American Anthropological Association and also a prominent member of the American Folklore Society. She became the first woman to be recognized as a prominent leader of a learned profession. She can be viewed as a transitional figure in her field by redirecting both anthropology and folklore away from the limited confines of culture-trait diffusion studies and towards theories of performance as integral to the interpretation of culture. She studied the relationships between personality, art, language, and culture and insisted that no trait existed in isolation or self-sufficiency, a theory that she championed in her 1934 book Patterns of Culture.

Photo of Clifford Geertz

4. Clifford Geertz (1926 - 2006)

With an HPI of 65.53, Clifford Geertz is the 4th most famous American Anthropologist.  His biography has been translated into 40 different languages.

Clifford James Geertz ( ; August 23, 1926 – October 30, 2006) was an American anthropologist who is remembered mostly for his strong support for and influence on the practice of symbolic anthropology and who was considered "for three decades... the single most influential cultural anthropologist in the United States." He served until his death as professor emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton.

Photo of A. L. Kroeber

5. A. L. Kroeber (1876 - 1960)

With an HPI of 58.52, A. L. Kroeber is the 5th most famous American Anthropologist.  His biography has been translated into 40 different languages.

Alfred Louis Kroeber ( KROH-bər; June 11, 1876 – October 5, 1960) was an American cultural anthropologist. He received his PhD under Franz Boas at Columbia University in 1901, the first doctorate in anthropology awarded by Columbia. He was also the first professor appointed to the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. He played an integral role in the early days of its Museum of Anthropology, where he served as director from 1909 through 1947. Kroeber provided detailed information about Ishi, the last surviving member of the Yahi people, whom he studied over a period of years. He was the father of the acclaimed novelist, poet, and writer of short stories Ursula K. Le Guin.

Photo of Edward T. Hall

6. Edward T. Hall (1914 - 2009)

With an HPI of 58.32, Edward T. Hall is the 6th most famous American Anthropologist.  Her biography has been translated into 19 different languages.

Edward Twitchell Hall, Jr. (May 16, 1914 – July 20, 2009) was an American anthropologist and cross-cultural researcher. He is remembered for developing the concept of proxemics and exploring cultural and social cohesion, and describing how people behave and react in different types of culturally defined personal space. Hall was an influential colleague of Marshall McLuhan and Buckminster Fuller.

Photo of Marvin Harris

7. Marvin Harris (1927 - 2001)

With an HPI of 56.25, Marvin Harris is the 7th most famous American Anthropologist.  His biography has been translated into 29 different languages.

Marvin Harris (August 18, 1927 – October 25, 2001) was an American anthropologist. He was born in Brooklyn, New York City. A prolific writer, he was highly influential in the development of cultural materialism and environmental determinism. In his work, he combined Karl Marx's emphasis on the forces of production with Thomas Malthus's insights on the impact of demographic factors on other parts of the sociocultural system. Labeling demographic and production factors as infrastructure, Harris posited these factors as key in determining a society's social structure and culture. After the publication of The Rise of Anthropological Theory in 1968, Harris helped focus the interest of anthropologists in cultural-ecological relationships for the rest of his career. Many of his publications gained wide circulation among lay readers. Over the course of his professional life, Harris drew both a loyal following and a considerable amount of criticism. He became a regular fixture at the annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association, where he would subject scholars to intense questioning from the floor, podium, or bar. He is considered a generalist, who had an interest in the global processes that account for human origins and the evolution of human cultures. In his final book, Theories of Culture in Postmodern Times, Harris argued that the political consequences of postmodern theory were harmful, a critique similar to those later developed by philosopher Richard Wolin and others.

Photo of Leslie White

8. Leslie White (1900 - 1971)

With an HPI of 55.81, Leslie White is the 8th most famous American Anthropologist.  His biography has been translated into 27 different languages.

Leslie Alvin White (January 19, 1900, Salida, Colorado – March 31, 1975, Lone Pine, California) was an American anthropologist known for his advocacy of the theories on cultural evolution, sociocultural evolution, and especially neoevolutionism, and for his role in creating the department of anthropology at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor. White was president of the American Anthropological Association (1964).

Photo of Marshall Sahlins

9. Marshall Sahlins (1930 - 2021)

With an HPI of 55.18, Marshall Sahlins is the 9th most famous American Anthropologist.  His biography has been translated into 28 different languages.

Marshall David Sahlins ( SAH-linz; December 27, 1930 – April 5, 2021) was an American cultural anthropologist best known for his ethnographic work in the Pacific and for his contributions to anthropological theory. He was the Charles F. Grey Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and of Social Sciences at the University of Chicago.

Photo of Ann Dunham

10. Ann Dunham (1942 - 1995)

With an HPI of 54.70, Ann Dunham is the 10th most famous American Anthropologist.  Her biography has been translated into 24 different languages.

Stanley Ann Dunham (November 29, 1942 – November 7, 1995) was an American anthropologist who specialized in the economic anthropology and rural development of Indonesia. She was the mother of Barack Obama, the 44th president of the United States. Born in Wichita, Kansas, Dunham studied at the East–West Center and at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa in Honolulu, where she attained a Bachelor of Arts degree in anthropology (1967), and later received Master of Arts (1974) and PhD (1992) degrees, also in anthropology. She also attended the University of Washington in Seattle from 1961 to 1962. Interested in craftsmanship, weaving, and the role of women in cottage industries, Dunham's research focused on women's work on the island of Java and blacksmithing in Indonesia. To address the problem of poverty in rural villages, she created microcredit programs while working as a consultant for the United States Agency for International Development. Dunham was also employed by the Ford Foundation in Jakarta and she consulted with the Asian Development Bank in Gujranwala, Pakistan. Towards the latter part of her life, she worked with Bank Rakyat Indonesia, where she helped apply her research to the largest microfinance program in the world.After her son was elected president, interest renewed in Dunham's work: the University of Hawaiʻi held a symposium about her research; an exhibition of Dunham's Indonesian batik textile collection toured the United States; and in December 2009, Duke University Press published Surviving against the Odds: Village Industry in Indonesia, a book based on Dunham's original 1992 dissertation. Janny Scott, an author and former New York Times reporter, published a biography of her titled A Singular Woman in 2011. Posthumous interest has also led to the creation of the Ann Dunham Soetoro Endowment in the Anthropology Department at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, as well as the Ann Dunham Soetoro Graduate Fellowships, intended to fund students associated with the East–West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii.In an interview, Barack Obama referred to his mother as "the dominant figure in my formative years ... The values she taught me continue to be my touchstone when it comes to how I go about the world of politics."

Pantheon has 23 people classified as anthropologists born between 1805 and 1961. Of these 23, 3 (13.04%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living anthropologists include Helen Fisher, Gayle Rubin, and Eugenie Scott. The most famous deceased anthropologists include Lewis H. Morgan, Margaret Mead, and Ruth Benedict. As of April 2022, 2 new anthropologists have been added to Pantheon including Melville J. Herskovits and Helen Fisher.

Living Anthropologists

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Deceased Anthropologists

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Newly Added Anthropologists (2022)

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Which Anthropologists were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 19 most globally memorable Anthropologists since 1700.