Bronisław Kasper Malinowski (April 7, 1884 – May 16, 1942) is considered to be one of the most important anthropologists of the twentieth century.
Malinowski was a pioneer in newly developing field of social and cultural anthropology, especially he established a fundamentals of participant observation– a method of ethnographic field research which became a staple of cultural anthropology.
He was born in Krakówon April 7, 1884, in present day Poland, as the only child of Lucjan and Józefa Malinowski. His father was a professor at the Jagiellonian University and his mother was a linguist from a well to do landowning family.
In 1908 he received his Ph.D. in philosophy, physics, and mathematics from the Jagiellonian University.
His interest in studying other cultures was stimulated by James Frazer’s “The Golden Bough”. Fascination with works of British anthropologists, propelled him, in 1910, to travel to England to study at the London School of Economics where the department of anthropology was freshly established.
In 1914 he journeyed to the Pacific Islands- to Papua and others. His prolonged research of native cultures of this region, most famously of the Trobriand Islands, resulted in many published works. There he begun to study Kula exchange – which was a subject of his most famous book Argonauts of the Western Pacific.
He went there several times, staying for extended periods during the First World War. While vising Australia he met his future wife Elsie Rosalind Masson. They got married in 1919. Marriage lasted till 1935, till Elsie’s death. They had three daughters.
In 1922, he earned a doctorate of science in anthropology and his masterpiece Argonauts of the Western Pacific was published, making him the best know anthropologist at the time. He was teaching at the London School of Economics (LSE) which during his tenure became the most important center of anthropology.
He also took teaching positions abroad. The braking of the Second World War found him in the United States. He stayed and took a position at Yale University turning his interests into studying Mexican farmers.
Bronislaw Malinowski died on May 14, 1942, in New Haven, Connecticut.