Gregory Bateson

1904 (Grantchester, England) – 1980 (San Francisco)

Bateson, something of a maverick polymath, was an influential synthesist of multi-disciplinary ideas. With his then wife Mead, he helped invent visual anthropology. With McCullough, he helped found the influential Macy conferences, the intellectual forge for cybernetics; Shannon, von Neumann, Wiener, Pitts, Licklider and von Foerster all participated. He corresponded with Deren, was on a panel with Duchamp and Milhaud, recruited Ginsberg into research on LSD, influenced Capra and loved Malinowski. He wished he’d filmed Lorenz. Brand, who helped spread his ideas, described him as dishevelled.

Gregory Bateson knew…

Gerhard Friedrich Müller

Gerhardt Friedrich Müller;Gerhard Friedrich Mueller;Fyodor Ivanovich Miller

1705 (Herford, Germany) – 1783 (Moscow)

Müller, one of the true founders of ethnography, was among many Germans recruited by Peter the Great to the scientific academy in St Petersburg, spending nearly 50 years in the country. He spent years mapping Siberia, and made prodigious efforts to write a scholarly history of Russia. He joined Bering’s second expedition to Siberia and Kamchatka, though he and his colleague Gmelin parted ways with it after a year. Pallas, Steller, Krasheninnikov and Amman were further scientific colleagues, and Linnaeus and Euler correspondents for decades. He visited Sloane in London, and had a damaging run-in with Lomonosov.

Gerhard Friedrich Müller knew…

Marcel Mauss

1872 (Épinal, France) – 1950 (Paris)

Durkheim was Mauss’s uncle, intellectual mentor, and eventual professional colleague. Caillois and Leiris were among his students, Hubert a professional colleague, co-author and friend. Lévi-Strauss, who regarded him as an important influence but didn’t study under him, discussed exogamous relations among Brazilian tribes with him before exiling himself in New York.

Marcel Mauss knew…

Georg Forster

1754 (Nassenhuben, Prussia, now Mokry Dwór, Poland) – 1794 (Paris)

His father Johann Reinhold Forster was invited to join Cook’s second Pacific expedition, with the 18-year-old Georg accompanying as draughtsman. Banks, Goethe, Wieland, Lessing and Herder were all regular correspondents. Forster’s translation of a Sanskrit play influenced Herder and stimulated German indology. He and Lichtenberg edited a literary/scientific journal in Göttingen, where his wife’s father Heyne was an eminent professor. The young Humboldt accompanied him on a journey through the Low Countries and England. He attacked Kant over his views on race, but the two never met.