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LIFE RULES OF ANTHROPOLOGIST MARGARET MEAD: on herself, science and emotional intelligence

Маргарет Мид в Американском музее естественной истории, Нью-Йорк, 1930 год
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Margaret Mead at the American Museum of Natural History, New York, 1930 /


Margaret Mead (1901–1978) — American anthropologist, sociologist, and ethnographer, an expert in ethnopsychology. She was one of the brightest women in science at a time when, if you wanted to pursue it seriously, it was desirable to be a man.


«The main limitation in my career has always been gender, — Margaret Mead lamented. — Women, especially in science, were not really valued, and the results of their research were not really appreciated either. My dad once told me that I could have done better in my work and science if I had been a man… He didn’t have much faith in me, but that doesn’t make me love him any less».

Margaret has conducted ethnographic fieldwork in Samoa, the Admiralty Islands, New Guinea, and Bali. In her research, she wrote not only about anthropology but also touched on the realm of the senses.

She was named the outstanding woman of 1949 in the field of science, and seven years later, she was named one of the outstanding women of the 20th century. In the 1970s, the view that anthropologist Margaret Mead was the symbol of modern science was forever established in American scientific communities. She was the person who was able to organically combine ethnography with psychology.

«When I realized I had succeeded, I felt freedom: freedom from obligation, freedom to choose what I wanted to do», — Margaret would say.


Маргарет Мид держит цанцу (уменьшенную голову), которую она привезла из своей экспедиции в Новую Гвинею в 1933 году
Margaret Mead holds a tsantsa (a shrunken head) she brought back from her expedition to New Guinea in 1933 / solidariteetprogres




Many years ago, Margaret Mead asked students what they would call the first sign of civilization? The students began to raise their hands, shouting out about clay pots with the first primitive patterns, sharpened stone chisels, and fishing hooks. 

«All your answers are wrong!» — replied Margaret Mead.

She said the first sign of civilization in an ancient culture is a human femur that was broken and then fused together. The anthropologist explained: «When a living thing in the animal kingdom breaks a leg, it dies. With a broken leg, it is impossible to hunt for food, escape from pursuing predators, or walk to a watering hole. The bone takes a long time to heal, so the animal has no chance of survival».


A femur that was broken and then fused is proof of civilization


In fact, someone saw another person’s injury, felt pity for them, and then took the time to care for them, dress their wounds, carry the person to safety, and even guarded them, fed and watered them until they recovered and got back on their feet.

«Helping another person during an illness or other difficult time in life is the act from which the civilization begins», — Mead told the students, long before humanity started talking about empathy and emotional intelligence.




«Life in the XXth century is like skydiving: you have to do it right from the start».

«Education has cultivated in me confidence: the only thing that makes sense is to expand accurate information about the world».

«In remote parts of the earth, ways of life of which we know nothing about are breaking down under the onslaught of modern civilization. Describing them must be done now, or they will be lost to us forever. Everything else can wait».

«If a scientist cannot formulate what he is doing in a way that an intelligent twelve-year-old child can understand, then let him lock himself away in his laboratory and think hard about what the essence of his work is».

«Every nation is made of complete human beings, leading lifestyles comparable to our own».


Маргарет Мид стоит между двумя самоанскими девушками, около 1926 года
Margaret Mead standing between two Samoan girls, ca. 1926 /




«We are constantly confronted with brilliant opportunities and dismiss them as insoluble problems».

«Instead of filling children’s heads with age, gender, race, class, and religious differences between people, we need to let them realize that in any of these categories, there are some people who are disgusting and some who are fascinating».

«The question still remains: Is behavior based on fear of divine punishment moral or just cowardice?»

«What people say, what they do, and what they say they do are three very different things».

«I had the wisdom never to grow up and yet make those around me believe I had grown up».


Do not doubt that a small group of thinking people, active citizens, can change the world. Moreover, that’s the only way it’s always been done


«Whenever we liberate a woman, we liberate a man as well».

«There are times when we temporarily have to accept the lesser evil, but we should never call a forced evil a good».

«Having someone to worry about when you don’t come home in the evening is one of the oldest human needs».


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