Walter R. Goldschmidt is currently a Professor Emeritus at U.C.L.A., in Anthropology, Psychiatry, and Sociology. His areas of special interest include cultural ecology, cultural evolution, culture theory and East Africa. Dr. Goldschmidt received his Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of California, Berkley, in 1942, where he studied under Alfred Kroeber, Robert Lowie, and Edward Gifford. Dr. Goldschmidt was also influenced by Cultural Geographer Carl Sauer and Economists Paul Taylor and Lloyd Fisher, who guided his interests to the problems of contemporary society.
He did field work with the Hupa and Nomlaki groups in northern California in 1936-37, and his Ph.D. dissertation was based on a community study he carried out in farming towns in the San Joaquin Valley of California. This study was primarily concerned with the social impacts of industrialized agribusiness, and was the basis of his often-cited book, As You Sow, an example of what is known as Applied Anthropology.
Dr. Goldschmidt was subsequently hired by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics (USDA) to study the impact of large scale farming on communities. The findings were relevant to the policies that were expected to be completed; they were so dramatic and devastating to large-scale operations that they were debated in the Halls of Congress and appeared in the Congressional Record.
He then joined the faculty at UCLA, and became interested in the theoretical problems inherent in the appplication of the cultural paradigm. His first book dealing with this issue was Man’s Way, which is an ecological approach to cultural evolution. This led to his Culture and Ecology Project in East Africa, where he organized a team to study in detail four cultures, each of which had made the transition from pastoralism to cultivation. The team examined the correlation between changes in social institutions and personality characteristics and changes in ecological circumstance. The findings are recorded in his Comparative Functionalism.
Goldschmidt was editor of American Anthropologist from 1956-1961, co-editorship of Ethos, Journal for the Society of Psychological Anthropology, and presidency of the American Anthropological Association in 1975 and 1976. He made vital contributions to a radio program, “Ways of Mankind” in 1954; popularized social anthropology by showing the universality of human nature and the many forms that nature can take. He has been an active and influential figure in anthropology in the United States, combining many approaches to theoretical and historical anthropology, as well as helping to bring anthropology into the real world of contemporary people problems.