A Biography of Mead

After attending the Doylestown High School and the New Hope School for Girls, both in Pennsylvania, Margaret Mead enrolled at DePauw University at Greencastle, Indiana in 1919. Her own wish was to become a painter but her father and mother, a professor of economics and a sociologist respectively, had reared her to be a social scientist. Her intention was to major in English at DePauw but after one year, she entered Barnard College, Columbia University. It was here that Margaret Mead decided to make anthropology her field. A Phi Beta Kappa student, she received her B.A. degree from Barnard in 1923 and her M.A. degree, in psychology, from Columbia in 1924. In 1925 she completed her doctoral thesis but did not receive her Ph.D. from Columbia until 1929. In 1940, Dr. Mead was the recipient of her first honorary degree, D.Sc. from Wilson College, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania and the Chi Omega sororities annual achievement award. Subsequent honorary D.Sc. degrees conferred on Dr. Mead were from Rutgers University in 1941 and Elmira College in 1947.

Margaret Mead is a specialist in what she herself describes as "conditioning of the social personalities of both sexes." Her mother, a pioneer in child psychology, taught her to take notes on the behavior of younger children before she was eight years old. Her first field work, in the Samoan Islands, was undertaken in 1925-26. In 1925, too, Miss Mead obtained a National Research Council fellowship and an appointment as associate at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu. On her return to the United States in 1926, Miss Mead was appointed assistant curator of ethnology at the American Museum of Natural History. She has been attached to the museum ever since, becoming an associate curator in 1942. A second field work, the Manus Tribe of the Admiralty Islands in the West Pacific Ocean, was made possible by a Social Science Research Council Fellowship in 1928-29. In 1930, Dr. Mead began her third field trip, this time to study an American Indian Tribe the identity of which is concealed by the name of "the Antlers" in her book reporting her findings and conclusions. Between 1931 and 1933, Dr. Mead was again in the New Guinea area investigating three contrasted tribes, the Arapesh, the Mundugumor, and the Tchambuli; her part in the work was financed by the Voss Research Fund of the American Museum of Natural History. For three years, starting in 1936, Dr. Mead was engaged in field work in Bali and New Guinea. Then, in 1939, Dr. Mead began two years as a visiting lecturer at Vassar College. Dr. Mead during World War II wrote pamphlets and interpreted American GI's to the British. She also served as executive secretary of the Committee on Food Habits, the National Research Council, from 1942-45. She was a visiting lecturer at Teachers College from 1947-51 and has served as consultant on mental health, as a member of the Committee on Research of the Mental Health Division of the National Advisory Mental Health Council of the United States Public Health Service, and as a member of the interim governing board of the International Mental Health Congress. She was also secretary of the Institute for Intercultural Studies, a member of the American Anthropological Society, the American Ethnological Society, the Society of Applied Anthropology of which she was president in 1949, the New York Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Science and a number of other science bodies, as well as of the American Association of American Women and the Society for Women Geographers, which awarded her a gold medal in 1942. She is a fellow of the American Society for Orthopsychiatry, and in 1951 served as vice-president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the American Council of Learned Societies. Today, Dr. Mead is Curator Emeritus of the American Museum of Natural History but remains active as a participant in scientific meetings and similar activities. She always found her profession so diversified that she has not felt need for a hobby; she reportedly enjoys the theater and reads good poetry.

This page was last updated on August 12, 1996, by Dr. Umpleby.