Definition of Mead, Margaret

Reviewed on 6/3/2021

Mead, Margaret: (1901-1978) American anthropologist, author, and social critic. From the publication of her first book, "Coming of Age in Samoa," in 1928, in which she described the values of adolescent lovemaking in Samoan society, her name became associated with sexual theory. The scientific question underlying "Coming of Age in Samoa" was whether "the disturbances which vex our adolescents [are] due to the nature of adolescence itself or the civilization." Mead's findings suggest that the answer was: "civilization." She believed that the easygoing ways in Samoa minimized conflict and the incidence of neurotic personalities due to guilt feelings.

Mead attended Barnard College and Columbia University where she met Franz Boas, a celebrated anthropologist. He became her mentor at Columbia, where she took her MA in 1924 and her PhD in 1929. She authored some twenty books and coauthored an equal number. She was president of the the American Anthropological Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and taught at a number of institutions, but her long term professional base was at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.


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