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Presentation on Leslie White

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Background Info:

* 1900-1975

* Born in Salida, Colorado

* After his parents divorced when he was 5, he and his two siblings moved with his father into a farm near Greeley, Kansas

o There, they had no indoor plumbing, running water or electricity

o But, they had a fine view of the advent Halley’s comet

* then White developed an interest for astronomy

* He intended to major in physics in Louisiana State

* HOWEVER, when the US entered WWI, White joined the Navy

o it was here that his primary focus turned to issues of human behaviour

* In his new quest to understand “why peoples behave the way they do” he later enrolled in Louisiana State University as a student of psychology and sociology

o he moved on to Columbia university where he received his M.A. a year later

* He never took a single course under Boas, even though they were there at the same time.

* He studied under Alexander Goldenweiser (a former student of Boas)

o White learned Boasian methodologies and developed the characteristic emphasis on ethnology and antipathy for cultural evolutionism.

o However, in later years White would grow to become a critic of Boas, bashing his ideology at every opportunity,

* This was detrimental to his career and perhaps even the development of his own original ideas.


* Everything is the universe may be described in terms of energy.

* Second Law of Thermodynamics – the universe is breaking down structurally and running down dynamically –> it is moving in the direction of lesser degrees of order.

* Animate organisms are able to move in a direction opposite to that specified by the law of entropy because they are able to draw upon free energy outside themselves and incorporate it within their own systems.

o All living beings are dependent on energy derived from the sun

* sun –> plants –> animals

* The life process, in its maintenance of in the individual organism is not merely a matter of capturing quantities of energy and of incorporating them within living systems to take the place of like quantities that have been expended during the process of living.

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