Levi-Strauss is a French anthropologist and ethnologist. He was born on November 28, 1908 in Brussels and is considered the founder of modern anthropology. Levi-Strauss lived with his maternal grandfather who was a rabbi during WWI. Levi-Strauss attended the Sorbonne in Paris and learned philosophy. In 1935 he was part of a French Cultural mission to Brazil where he was a professor of sociology. Fran 1935 to 1939 Levi-Strauss and his wife Dina worked on their anthropological work. They conducted research into the Mato Grosso and the Amazon Rainforest. They studied the Guaycuru and Bororo Indian tribes. Later they would return to Brazil to study the Nambikwara society. Dina suffered an injury prevented her from completing the study and Levi-Strauss took over.
During the war Levi-Strauss escaped to America and lived in New York City. He taught at the New School for Social Research and was a founding member of the Evole Libre des Hautes Etudes. Levi-Strauss published The Elementary Structures of Kinship which is regarded as one of the most important anthropological works on kinship. Levi-Strauss argued that kinship is founded on the alliances among two families forming a group at the time of marriage.
He published Tristes Tropiques in 1955 which was a memoir detailing his time throughout the 1930s and his travels. He used delightful prose to produce a masterpiece. He was named to a chair in Social Anthropology at the College de France in 1959 and he published Structural Anthropology at the same time. He began to establish anthropology as a discipline in France and founded a laboratory for social anthropology where students could be trained.
In 1962 Levi-Strauss published La Pensee Sauvage or The Savage Mind. This book describes forms of thought common to all humans. It is Levi-Strauss' theory of culture and mind plus his theory of history and social change. In 1971 Levi-Strauss completed Mythologiqust and in 1973 he was elected to the Academie francaise. He was also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and received the Erasmus Prize in 1973. He also received several honorary doctorates from Oxford, Yale, Columbia and Harvard.
Levi-Strauss died on October 30, 2009 a few weeks before he turned 101.