Conrad M. Arensberg was born on September 12, 1910 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Academically inclined from a young age, he graduated first in his class at Shadyside Academy in Pittsburgh. His early success earned him admittance to Harvard College. Arensberg studied anthropology and graduated summa cum laude in 1931.
As a graduate student at Harvard University, Arensberg was asked to join a project being conducted in Ireland by Harvard's Anthropology Department. Alongside W. Lloyd Warner and Solon T. Kimball, Arensberg spent three years studying rural Irish life in County Clare. This research resulted in his doctoral dissertation, "A Study in Rural Life in Ireland as Determined by the Functions and Morphology of the Family," which was later published as
The Irish Countryman
in 1937. His work was groundbreaking in the field of anthropology, and his study of County Clare "became a model for other community studies... requiring that researchers study a target culture from the inside, making meticulous notes on everything they saw, heard or experienced." Arensberg reshaped the way that anthropologists approached fieldwork and opened doors for the study of modern industrial societies.
Arensberg had a long teaching career. He first became a university professor in 1938 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and remained a professor for the rest of his life, teaching at MIT, Brooklyn College, Barnard College, Columbia University, the University of Florida, and the University of Virginia. At Columbia, Arensberg worked alongside such notable anthropologists as Margaret Mead, Charles Wagley, and Marvin Harris.
Arensberg officially retired in 1979, but he continued to collaborate with his colleagues, counsel past students, and participate in professional associations until his death. He passed away on February 10, 1997 in Hazlet, New Jersey.
Comitas, Lambros. 2000. "Conrad Maynadier Arensberg (1910-1997)."
Curriculum Vitae—Amended Posthumously. Series 6. Biographical Files. Conrad M. Arensberg papers, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution.
Thomas, Robert McG. Jr. 1997. "Conrad Arensberg, 86, Dies; Hands-On Anthropologist."
New York Times
, February 16: 51.
1910 September 12
Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
B.A. from Harvard College
Traveled to Ireland to study rural life in County Clare as part of the Harvard Irish Mission
Junior Fellow, The Society of Fellows, Harvard University
Member and Fellow, American Anthropological Association
Ph.D. in Anthropology from Harvard University
The Irish Countryman
, the result of his work in Ireland
Occasional consultant, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Bureau of American Ethnology
Assistant Professor, Department of Social Sciences and Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Founded (with others) the Society for Applied Anthropology
Associate Professor and Chairman, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Brooklyn College
Captain, Major, AUS, Military Intelligence Service
Associate Professor of Sociology, Chairman (until 1949) Department of Sociology, Barnard College, Columbia University
Research Director, UNESCO, Institute for the Social Sciences, Cologne, Germany
Editor, Point Four Manual, American Anthropological Association
Associate Professor of Anthropology, The Graduate Faculty of Political Science, Columbia University
Professor of Anthropology, Chairman (1956-1959), Department of Anthropology, Columbia University
Co-Director (with Alan Lomax) of Columbia University's Cross-Cultural Surveys of Social Structure and Expressive Behavior
Buttenwieser Professor of Human Relations, Columbia University
Buttenwieser Professor Emeritus of Human Relations, Columbia University
President, American Anthropological Association
First recipient, "Conrad M. Arensberg Award" of the Society for the Anthropology of Work
1997 February 10
Died in Hazlet, New Jersey