Nadel, Siegfred Ferdinand Stephan

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NADEL, SIEGFRED FERDINAND STEPHAN (Frederick ; 1903–1956), British anthropologist. Born in Austria, Nadel studied with Moritz Schlick and Karl Buehler, and developed a command of contemporary philosophical and psychological theory. In 1932 he began the serious study of anthropology at the London School of Economics under B. Malinowski and C.G. Seligman. He studied the music of primitive peoples, and African linguistics with D. Westermann. He did field work in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan and with the Nuba, from 1938 to 1940. During World War ii he served with the British armed forces and later as a lieutenant colonel with the British Military Administration, 1945–46. He successfully applied his anthropological knowledge to the administration of peoples of various origins and traditions. When a department of anthropology was established at the University of Durham in 1948 he was appointed to the chair, and in 1950 took the new chair of anthropology and sociology at the Australian National University, and was dean of the Research School of Pacific Studies. His ethnographic work was shown in A Black Byzantium (1942). In his research he investigated the deeper bases of cultures and employed new psychological techniques of investigation such as intelligence tests. Nadel's primary accomplishment, however, is in theory, which he developed in two major works, The Foundations of Social Anthropology (1951) and the Theory of Social Structure (1957). His great concern was how to unify the conceptual systems of social anthropology and sociology with a psychological framework. His Theory of Social Structure has been described as "one of the great theoretical teatises of twentieth century anthropology… which will have a lasting place in the fundamental literature of our subject" (Meyer Fortes). Nadel died unexpectedly of a heart attack at the age of only 52.


R. Firth, in: American Anthropologist, 59 (1957), 117–24, incl. bibl.; M. Fortes, in: S.F. Nadel, The Theory of Social Structure (1957), ix–xvi; M. Janowitz, in: Current Anthropology, 4:2 (1963), 139, 149–54; iess, index. add. bibliography: odnb online; J. Salat, Reasoning as Enterprise: The Anthropology of S.F. Nadel (1983).

[Ephraim Fischoff]