Ward H. Goodenough, 94, Penn professor

Ward H. Goodenough
Ward H. Goodenough
Posted: June 16, 2013

Ward H. Goodenough, 94, a longtime University of Pennsylvania professor whose work helped shape anthropology, died Sunday, June 9, of organ failure at the Quadrangle in Haverford.

"Transcending the triteness of the terms, he was a true renaissance man and a consummate gentleman," his family said in a statement. Along with his academic work, Dr. Goodenough composed music and wrote poetry.

Born in Cambridge, Mass., he lived in England and Germany as a child while his father studied at the University of Oxford. He became fluent in German by age 4, and his fascination with languages never dimmed.

After the family moved to Connecticut, he graduated from the Groton School in Massachusetts and went on to earn a bachelor's degree in 1940 from Cornell University, majoring in Scandinavian languages and literature.

Although he enrolled in graduate school at Yale University, his studies were interrupted by World War II. He served in the Army as a noncommissioned officer from November 1941 to December 1945.

During the last years of the war, he was assigned to a social science research unit to study certain initiatives. The unit posited that integration of the armed forces was feasible and desirable, and that the GI Bill would meet the needs of returning soldiers and stabilize civilian society.

Dr. Goodenough earned his doctorate in anthropology from Yale in 1949. He was influenced by George Peter Murdock, his mentor while the two did a survey in 1940, and then field work on the Chuuk islands (then known as Truk) in Micronesia for seven months in 1947.

 He maintained a lifelong attachment to Chuuk and its people, and was the author and compiler in 1980 of the Trukese-English Dictionary.

Dr. Goodenough did field work later in Oceania, both in Micronesia and Melanesia. An expert on kinship, his best-known early contribution was the development of a method for applying componential analysis to the study of kinship terminology.

In his later work, Dr. Goodenough made contributions to linguistic anthropology, economic development studies, and culture theory.  

Dr. Goodenough taught anthropology for two years at the University of Wisconsin before moving to Penn in 1949. He remained there until his retirement in 1989, serving as the department chair from 1976 to 1982, and as a university professor from 1980 to 1989.

His scholarship had an impact on public policy decisions, including work on emergency planning for the National Research Council, on arms control, and on environmental health.

He served on a panel of consultants that advised the Department of Energy on how to mark its Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, a project for disposing of radioactive waste.

He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society.

His marriage to the former Ruth Gallagher, whom he met at Cornell, lasted until her death in 2001. He often said he owed the success of his writing to "her lively intellect and lightness of touch" as his editor.

Surviving are sons Oliver Goodenough and Garrick Gallagher; daughters Hester Gelber and Deborah Gordon; 10 grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; and Joan May, who shared his life at the Quadrangle.

A memorial service will be at 2 p.m. Thursday, June 27, at the Quadrangle, 3300 Darby Rd., Haverford. Burial was private.

Contributions may be made to the American Philosophical Society, 104 S. Fifth St., Philadelphia 19106.


Contact Bonnie L. Cook at 610-313-8102 or bcook@phillynews.com.

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