|Birth Day:||May 9, 1904|
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He was an anthropologist who studied the natives of New Guinea.
Bateson was born in Grantchester in Cambridgeshire, England, on 9 May 1904. He was the third and youngest son of (Caroline) Beatrice Durham and the distinguished geneticist William Bateson. He was named Gregory after Gregor Mendel, the Austrian monk who founded the modern science of genetics.
The younger Bateson attended Charterhouse School from 1917 to 1921, obtained a Bachelor of Arts in biology at St. John's College, Cambridge, in 1925, and continued at Cambridge from 1927 to 1929. According to Lipset (1982), Bateson's life was greatly affected by the death of his two brothers. John Bateson (1898–1918), the eldest of the three, was killed in World War I. Martin Bateson (1900–1922), the second brother, was then expected to follow in his father's footsteps as a scientist, but came into conflict with his father over his ambition to become a poet and playwright. The resulting stress, combined with a disappointment in love, resulted in Martin's public suicide by gunshot under the statue of Anteros in Piccadilly Circus on 22 April 1922, which was John's birthday. After this event, which transformed a private family tragedy into public scandal, the parents ambitious expectations fell on Gregory.
In 1928, Bateson lectured in linguistics at the University of Sydney . From 1931 to 1937, he was a Fellow of St. John's College, Cambridge. He spent the years before World War II in the South Pacific in New Guinea and Bali doing anthropology.
He experienced more success with the Iatmul people, an indigenous people along the middle Sepik River of New Guinea. He would always return to the idea of communications and relations or interactions between and among people. The observations he made of the Iatmul allowed him to develop his concept of schismogenesis, which he defined in his 1936 book Naven, based on his Iatmul fieldwork, as "a process of differentiation in the norms of individual behaviour resulting from cumulative interaction between individuals" (p. 175). The book was named after the 'naven' rite, an honorific ceremony among the Iatmul, still continued today, that celebrates first-time cultural achievements. The ceremony entails many antics that are normally forbidden during everyday social life. For example, men and women reverse and exaggerate gender roles; men dress in women's skirts, and women dress in men's attire and ornaments. Additionally, certain categories of female kin smear mud in the faces of other relatives, beat them with sticks, and hurl bawdy insults. Mothers may drop to the ground so their celebrated 'child' walks over them. And during a male rite, a mother's brother may slide his buttocks down the leg of his honoured sister's son, a complex gesture of masculine birthing, pride, and insult, rarely performed before women, that brings the honoured sister's son to tears. Bateson suggested the influence of a circular system of causation, and proposed that:
In short, the behaviour of person X affects person Y, and the reaction of person Y to person X's behaviour will then affect person X's behaviour, which in turn will affect person Y, and so on. Bateson called this the "vicious circle." He then discerned two models of schismogenesis: symmetrical and complementary. Symmetrical relationships are those in which the two parties are equals, competitors, such as in sports. Complementary relationships feature an unequal balance, such as dominance-submission (parent-child), or exhibitionism-spectatorship (performer-audience). Bateson's experiences with the Iatmul led him to publish a book in 1936 titled Naven: A Survey of the Problems suggested by a Composite Picture of the Culture of a New Guinea Tribe drawn from Three Points of View (Cambridge University Press). The book proved to be a watershed in anthropology and modern social science.
In 1938, Bateson and Mead returned to the Sepik River, and settled into the village of Tambunum, where Bateson had spent three days in the 1920s. They aimed to replicate the Balinese project on the relationship between childraising and temperament, and between conventions of the body – such as pose, grimace, holding infants, facial expressions, etc. – reflected wider cultural themes and values. Bateson snapped some 10,000 black and white photographs, and Mead typed thousands of pages of fieldnotes. But Bateson and Mead never published anything substantial from this research.
Bateson's encounter with Mead on the Sepik river (Chapter 16) and their life together in Bali (Chapter 17) is described in Mead's autobiography Blackberry Winter: My Earlier Years (Angus and Robertson. London. 1973). Their daughter Catherine's birth in New York on 8 December 1939 is recounted in Chapter 18.
During 1936–1950, he was married to American cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead. At that time he applied his knowledge to the war effort before moving to the United States. Bateson and Mead had a daughter, Mary Catherine Bateson (born 1939), who also became an anthropologist. Bateson separated from Mead in 1947, and they were divorced in 1950. In 1951, he married Elizabeth "Betty" Sumner (1919–1992), the daughter of the Episcopalian Bishop of Oregon, Walter Taylor Sumner. They had a son, John Sumner Bateson (1951–2015), as well as twins who died shortly after birth in 1953. Bateson and Sumner were divorced in 1957, after which Bateson married a third time, the therapist and social worker Lois Cammack (born 1928), in 1961. They had one daughter, Nora Bateson (born 1969).
In 1956, he became a naturalised citizen of the United States.
In 1956 in Palo Alto, Bateson and his colleagues Donald Jackson, Jay Haley, and John Weakland articulated a related theory of schizophrenia as stemming from double bind situations. The double bind refers to a communication paradox described first in families with a schizophrenic member. The first place where double binds were described (though not named as such) was according to Bateson, in Samuel Butler's The Way of All Flesh (a semi-autobiographical novel about Victorian hypocrisy and cover-up).
In the 1970s, he taught at the Humanistic Psychology Institute, renamed the Saybrook University, in San Francisco; and in 1972 joined the faculty of Kresge College at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
In 1976, he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and California Governor Jerry Brown appointed him to the Regents of the University of California, in which position he served until his death (although he resigned from the Special Research Projects committee in 1979, in opposition to the university's work on nuclear weapons).
Bateson died age 76 on July 4, 1980, in the guest house of the San Francisco Zen Center. The 2014 novel Euphoria by Lily King is a fictionalized account of Bateson's relationships with Mead and Reo Fortune in pre-WWII New Guinea.
In 1984, his daughter Mary Catherine Bateson published a joint biography of her parents (Bateson and Margaret Mead) .
The Bateson Idea Group (BIG) initiated a web presence in October 2010. The group collaborated with the American Society for Cybernetics for a joint meeting in July 2012 at the Asilomar Conference Grounds in California.
Currently, Gregory Bateson is 116 years, 11 months and 7 days old. Gregory Bateson will celebrate 117th birthday on a Sunday 9th of May 2021.
Find out about Gregory Bateson birthday activities in timeline view here.