Steward, Julian Haynes (1902-1972) | University of Illinois Archives

Name: Steward, Julian Haynes (1902-1972)

Historical Note:

Julian Haynes Steward (1902-1972) was professor of anthropology (1952-72) and acting head of the Department of Anthropology (1959-60) at the University of Illinois Urban-Champaign (UIUC). He was highly influential in the twentieth-century field of anthropology, known for establishing the cultural ecology paradigm as well as for developing a scientific theory of culture change.

Steward was born in Washington, DC, in 1902. He earned a bachelor's degree in zoology and geology in 1925 before earning a master's degree (1926) and a doctorate in anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley (1929). His research interests centered on subsistence, the dynamic interaction of man, environment, technology, social structure, and the organization of work. He coined the term cultural ecology, establishing it as a methodology for understanding how humans adapt to a wide variety of environments. He also adopted a cross-cultural, multi-linear approach to discerning laws of culture and cultural change. Steward held teaching and administrative positions at a number of American universities, including the University of Michigan (1928-30), University of Utah (1930-33), and UC Berkley (1933-34). In 1935, he accepted a position as associate anthropologist in the Bureau of American Ethnology of the Smithsonian Institution where he stayed until 1946 aside from a brief transfer to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. During this time, he published his study Basin-Plateau Aboriginal Sociopolitical Groups (1938) explicating his cultural ecology paradigm. He also conceived and edited the Smithsonian series Handbook of South American Indians (1940-47) and served as founding director of the Institute for Social Anthropology (1943-46). In 1946, Steward returned to academia serving on the anthropology faculties of Columbia University (1946-52) and UIUC (1952-72). At UIUC, he undertook a large-scale comparative analysis of modernization in eleven traditional societies. The results of this research were published as Contemporary Change in Traditional Societies (vols. Iâ??III, 1967-68).

Steward was the recipient of the Viking Fund Medal from the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research in 1952. He died on February 6, 1972, in Urbana, Illinois.


"Institute for Social Anthropology Created," Smithsonian, accessed April 16, 2020,

Wikipedia, s.v. "Cultural ecology," accessed April 16, 2020,

Wikipedia, s.v. "Handbook of South American Indians," accessed April 16, 2020,

Wikipedia, s.v. "Julian H. Steward," accessed on April 16, 2020,

Julian Steward, New World Encyclopedia, accessed January 21, 2021,

Robert A. Manners, "Julian Haynes Steward 1902-1972," American Anthropologist 75, 1973 (pp. 886-903), accessed January 21, 2021,

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