Social Anthropologist. He was one of the most famous anthropologists of the 20th century and considered the "father of modern anthropology," though he was not formally educated in the subject. Born in Brussels, Belgium in a French Jewish family, his parents were Emma Levy and Raymond Levi-Strauss, an artist. He studied law at the University of Paris, but eventually graduated with a degree in Philosophy in 1932 before becoming a secondary school teacher. In 1934, he accepted a position as a professor of sociology at the newly formed French supported, University of São Paulo in Brazil, where he did his only field work with the Guaycuru and Bororo tribes of the Amazon rainforests in Brazil. Being Jewish, his position was soon eliminated after nearly five years by Nazi policies. During World War II, he served in the army at the Maginot Line along France's eastern front before the surrender to Nazi Forces. To escape discrimination and persecution against Jews in Nazi controlled Vichy France, he was one of thousands of Jews spirited to safety through the courageous efforts of American humanitarian Varian Fry. He took refuge in New York City, where he taught, as a visiting professor, at the New School of Social Research in Manhattan. He stayed in the United States until 1948 as cultural attaché to the French embassy in Washington, DC. After submitting his thesis, he was awarded his doctorate degree by Sorbonne University. In 1949, he published his first major work, "Les Structures élémentaires de la parenté" ("The Elementary Structures of Kinship"). This was followed by his much talked about autobiographical work "Tristes Tropiques" in 1955, as well as "Structural Anthropology" in 1958, "The Savage Mind" in 1962, "From Honey to Ashes" in 1966, "The Origin of Table Manners" in 1986, "Mythologiques" in 4 volumes from 1964 to 1972, "The Raw and the Cooked" in 1970. and "The Naked Man" in 1971. In 1950, he became director of the laboratory of Social Anthropology at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes at Paris University. He was noted for his view of "hot" and "cold" societies. Those that altered significantly and remained open to divergent influences were "hot," while cultures that changed only marginally over time were considered "cold." He attempted to focus upon the difficult to define inner life of a society rather than upon material culture. He also attempted to describe systems of meaning and the ways in which these were expressed in a culture's mythologies and relationships of exchange. He is known for his thoughts on structuralism, a theory that describes the idea that all cultures have a similar, underlying structure, which helps to define cultural beliefs and behaviors. He was appointed a member of the Legion of Honor in 1964, and elected to the Academie Française in 1973. He held the chair of Social Anthropology at the Collège de France from 1959 to 1982. In 1983 he published a collection of essays, "Le Regard éloigné" ("The View from Afar"). Despite the fact that he had no formal training in anthropology, he has been lauded as a pioneer in his chosen field, regardless of the once voiced opinion that despite his prestige, critics among his colleagues outnumbered disciples. He was known for being a harsh critic of scholars, whose thoughts were not in line with his. He has been credited with altering modern views of the "primitive," explaining that there was little difference between the thought processes of a so-called "savage" and a so-called "civilized" man. The Centre National de la Récherche Scientifique awarded him its Gold Medal, the highest scientific award in France. He married three times and divorced twice, and with his second and third wives, had a son with each.
Bio by: Iola