Wednesday, June 5, 2013
June 5 - Ruth Benedict
Anthropologist Ruth Fulton Benedict was born on June 5, 1887, in New York City. A Vassar graduate, she studied at Columbia University with Franz Boas, known as the “father of American anthropology,” who applied the scientific method to the study of human cultures and societies. Previously the field was based on sweeping theories formed around anecdotal knowledge. She began teaching at Barnard College in 1922, where she mentored Margaret Mead, whose anthropological studies deeply informed the sexual revolution beginning in the 1960s. In 1934 Benedict published Patterns of Culture, in which she expressed the idea of “cultural relativism,” viewing human cultures as “personality writ large,” each marked by its own patterns of thought, action and moral standards. During World War II she wrote The Chrysanthemum and the Sword (1946), a study of Japan’s society and culture that helped America understand the behavior of the Japanese and drew a distinction between guilt cultures and shame cultures.