Presentation on Leslie White. 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

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Leslie White: Presentation

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
  • There, they had no indoor plumbing, running water or electricity
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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)
  • White learned Boasian methodologies and developed the characteristic emphasis on ethnology and antipathy for cultural evolutionism.
  • 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.
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  • 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.  In an adult organism, the energy content is constant.  One calorie is worth as much as the other (they’re all equal), therefore an exchange would bring no advantage.
  • What sustains life and makes possible its evolutionary development?

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