The Tree of Culture
by Ralph Linton
New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1955
Ralph Linton’s last book presents his mature views on the nature of society and cultural change, and embodies the history of the development of human cultures from the earliest beginnings to the onset of the modern age. It is, as George Peter Murdock has said, the fruit of wide reading, a nearly photographic memory for details, panoramic scope, and an unparalleled theoretical imagination.”
Taking its name from the banyan tree, which starts from a single rooted trunk but spreads in all directions, putting down new trunks that develop in distinctive ways,The Tree of Culture describes the lines of human culture which have produced the great civilizations of the world. Civilization is seen as the product of steady growth and enrichment, having drawn over the ages from the inventive genius of many peoples, all of whom have contributed indistinctive ways to the world we live in. This is history with a new perspective, with the long-range, overall view of the development of human societies which the anthropologist can bring to it.
Rich in new ideas and insights, this monumental book presents the panorama of man’s development readably, vividly, and with a breadth of treatment that is both comprehensive and carefully integrated.
At the time of his death in 1953, Ralph Linton, Sterling Professor of Anthropology at Yale University, had an established reputation as one of the two or three greatest anthropologists in the world. Born in Philadelphia in 1893 of Quaker parentage, he attended Swarthmore College and pursued graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University, and Harvard (Ph.D., 1925). He devoted sixteen years, beginning in his undergraduate days, to work as a museum and field anthropologist, which took him to, among other places, New Mexico, Colorado, Guatemala, the Marquesas Islands, and Madagascar. He entered academic life in 1928, teaching first at the University of Wisconsin, then at Columbia (1937-46), and finally at Yale.
Linton was President of the American Anthropological Association in 1946, Vice President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1937,and a member of the National Academy of Science. He received the Viking Fund medal and award in general anthropology in 1951, and in 1953 was honored by the American Medical Association as giver of the Thomas William Salmon Lectures for that year. In 1954 he was awarded posthumously the Huxley Medal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. He was editor of the American Anthropologist (1939-44) and of the Viking Fund Publications in Anthropology (1947-51). His writings include The Cultural Background of Personality, The Study of Man, and The Tanala.“