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Biographical Memoirs: Volume 64
GEORGE PETER MURDOCK
May 11, 1897-March 29, 1985
BY WARD H. GOODENOUGH
GEORGE PETER MURDOCK played a peculiarly important role in the history of anthropology, to whose development he was a major contributor in the middle years of the twentieth century.1 He laid the foundations for systematic cross-cultural research and the cross-cultural testing of generalizations about human society and culture, and in his own work exemplified the value of such research and testing. He remained active until shortly before his death, publishing his last two monographs in 1980 and 1981, the latter when he was eighty-three years old. His work was not readily accepted by many of his fellow anthropologists and was the object of hostile criticism from some while being praised by others. But his critics had to reckon with his work, and many of them found, in the end, that their own contributions grew significantly out of it, thereby underscoring the importance of his role in the growth of his discipline. He contributed not only intellectually but also as an organizer, providing leadership in the creation of the Human Relations Area Files, Inc., and in the promotion and funding of anthropological research in the Pacific region.
Murdock grew up on a prosperous farm in Meriden, Connecticut, the eldest of three children of George Bronson Murdock and Harriet Elizabeth Graves. He was a seventh