Columbians Ahead of Their Time
 Ruth Benedict
Ruth Fulton Benedict “I gambled on having the strength to live two lives, one for myself and one for the world.”

Ruth Fulton Benedict  (1887–1948)
PhD 1923
Faculty 1924–48

Benedict helped lay the foundation of modern anthropology. Building on the work of Franz Boas in exploring the relationship of individuals to their cultures, her fieldwork among Native Americans and her studies of contemporary European and Asian cultures led her to emphasize concepts of cultural configuration, national character, and the relationship between individual personality and culture.  Her highly influential books, including Patterns of Culture (1934) and The Chrysanthemum and the Sword: Patterns of Japanese Culture (1946), popularized the anthropological concept of culture even as they attacked racism and ethnocentrism.

In 1931, Benedict was the first woman to be appointed to a full-time faculty position at Columbia. She graduated from Vassar College in 1909, married in 1914, and came to Columbia in 1919, studying under Boas and earning her doctorate in 1923. In rising to the top of her field, she overcame partial deafness and gender discrimination; until her divorce in 1931, she was unable to draw a salary because, as a married woman, she was not considered to be in need of one. She joined the faculty as the only other full-time anthropology professor besides Boas, and was named associate professor in 1936. Benedict was finally appointed full professor in 1948, the year after she was elected president of the American Anthropological Association, but died before assuming her new role. Many of Benedict's students, including Margaret Mead, went on to shape the emerging field of anthropology. 

Read more about Benedict in the Columbia Encyclopedia.

Known as the father of American anthropology, Boas shaped ideas and policies that have transcended the twentieth century.
Margaret Mead A prolific author, anthropologist, mentor, and the most influential female social scientist of her era. Columbian anthropologists Four who had an impact.

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