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Bronisław Malinowski

Bronislaw Kasper Malinowski was born on 7 April, 1884 in Krakow. Despite a serious eye disease he passed his maturity exam with a distinction from outside a school, then began his natural studies at the Faculty of Philosophy of the Jagiellonian University. During the first two years he attended lectures mainly of physics, mathematics, chemistry as well as philosophy. Serious illness (probably tuberculosis) made him change profile to a philosophical one. Nevertheless, he continued to participate in lectures on mathematics and physics. As a student he travelled all over Europe, from Finland to Italy, he also visited Asia and Africa. In 1906 he took a Ph. D. in philosophy and physics, submitting a doctor's dissertation "About the principle of economy of thinking" ("0 zasadzie ekonomii myslenia"). In 1908 he began philosophical studies at the University of Lipsk, where he attended lectures on philosophy and psychology. In 1910 he went to London. For many years he entered into close contact with London School of Economics and Political Sciences, which later constituted a part of University of London. In the beginning he had the status of a post-graduate student, then worked as a lecturer, he lectured social psychology and held lectures "Primary religion and social differentiation". In 1911 he published his first scientific dissertation "Totemism and Exogamy" ("Totemizm i egzogamia") being a critical review of J. G. Frazer's work, famous English ethnologist. In 1912 he published his first article in English and in 1913 a book "The Family among the Australian Aborigines". It was well received by critics and after fifty years re-edited with an enthusiastic preface of J. A. Barnes, who considered it a breakthrough in the history of science. Excellent book debut, lectures at the London School of Economics, discussions with specialists rendered much easier further fieldwork of Malinowski. In 1914 he received from the University of London Robert Mond's travel scholarship to make ethnographic research among the tribes of New Guinea. The expedition, planned for about 2 years, took more time because of the outbreak of the First World War. The first expedition was directed into the Mailu tribe, dwelling on the southern coast of New Guinea. Between one expedition and another he elaborated a monography regarding Mailu autochthons. In 1916 on the grounds of his works published he earned a Ph. D. in Science at the London School of Economics.

Within further research Malinowski made his expedition to the Trobriand Islands where he managed to master the language of a studied tribe, and two expeditions to Amphlett, Dobu and Samarai Islands and to the southern coast of New Guinea. The results of his studies made him famous worldwide. Thanks to intense fieldwork Malinowski possessed rich, scientific material elaborated variously which he gradually elaborated and published in the form of articles and books. Moreover, he brought precious collection of objects of material culture and art. He deposited a part of his collection at the Museum of Melbourne as Robert Mond's collection, while the second one was handed over to the British Museum in London. Work in the tropics seriously weakened Malinowski's health. In 1920 he returned to Europe and settled on Tenerife, where within a year he completed his first greater work, based on his own field material "Argonauts of the Western Pacific". There he presented his methodological credo. After returning to London in 1921 Malinowski took up lectures again at the School of Economics and a year later he became a full-time lecturer of social anthropology. Then he renounced of the faculty of ethnology offered him by the Jagiellonian University. In 1924 he received a nomination for an assistant professor, and in 1927 - professor's title and took over the direction of especially created for him the faculty of social anthropology at the University of London. On the invitation of Rockefeller's Fund in 1926 Malinowski went for the first time to the United States. There he lectured at the University of California and visited the Hopi Indians. Several times he came to Poland and in 1930 and 1938 he was appointed as a foreign member correspondent of the Polish Academy of Abilities (Polska Akademia Umiej^tnosci), then as an ordinary foreign member. In 1934 he carried out independent research in South and East Africa among native tribes. In years 1926 - 1935, the most fertile period of his scientific life, Malinowski published: "Crime and Custom in Savage Society", "Sex and Repression in Savage Society", "Sexual Life of Savage in North Western Melanesia", "Coral Gardens and their Magic". In 1936 he was delegated by the University of London and the Polish Academy of Abilities to the United States on the occasion of 300-year anniversary of Harvard University, where he was assigned a title of honoris causa doctor of that school. In 1938 he went again to the United States. The outbreak of World War II prevented him from leaving the States. During summer vacations of 1940 and 1941 he carried out research in Mexico. He was the first president of the newly founded the Polish Institute of Sciences and Arts (Polski Instytut Nauk i Sztuk) in New York. He lectured at Yale University.

He died suddenly on 6 May, 1942 in New Heaven. Malinowski was a good lecturer; his favourite method was a seminary. Apart from students there were other participants who had carried out some fieldwork, colonial functionaries, representatives of British dominions, Americans, and German emigrants. He invited on seminars distinguished representatives of different branches of science who animated discussions greatly. Malinowski is considered a tutor of the whole generation of British ethnologists and partially those Americans. Till his last days he worked intensely. He had wide scientific interests: starting from physics through philosophy to ethnology and general theory of culture. Malinowski gave life to a new type of fieldwork, consisting in treating a studied society as an integral system. Within the theory of society he founded functionalism, which in course of time transformed itself in a wide research specialization. Functional method in sciences dealing with culture studies consists in explaining anthropological facts by setting a function they have in an integral system of culture.

Malinowski influenced greatly European folklore and ethnography, sociology, study of religions, linguistics, psychology, theory of culture and theory of values. In the history of ethnology Malinowski remains as an author of exemplar works analysing questions of culture in base of the results of fieldwork, especially the culture of the Melanesia Islanders. Thoroughly documented, enriched with valuable methodological comments, a collection of ethnographic writings, consisting of "Argonauts of the Western Pacific", "Sexual Life of Savage in Northwestern Melanesia" and "Coral Gardens and their Magic", entered into the canon of the world Arts. Since the earliest teenage years the closest friend of Malinowski was Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz, who made him a prototype of the Prince of Nevermore in a novel "622 upadki Bunga" ("622 collapses of Bung"). To commemorate the name of Malinowski since 1959 annual lectures at the London School of Economics have been held, untitled "Malinowski Memorial Lecture".