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Siegfried Frederick Nadel

Siegfried Frederick Nadel (24 April 1903 – 14 January 1956), known as Fred Nadel, was an Austrian-born British anthropologist, specialising in African ethnology.

Siegfried Frederick Nadel
Born24 April 1903
Died14 January 1956
Scientific career

Life and careerEdit

Nadel was born in Vienna, Austria the son of a lawyer. He started his education in music, entering the Musik Akademie and the Musikhistorisches Institut in Vienna in 1920. He also developed interests in philosophy and psychology. He went on to study the latter with Karl Bühler at the Psychologisches Institut at the University of Vienna, and the former with Moritz Schlick. On 11 November 1925 graduated with a doctorate, his thesis being "Zur Psychologie des Konsonanzerlebens".[1] :1

His career was at first in music. He served as an assistant conductor of the Düsseldorf Opera House and, in 1927, organized and conducted an opera company that toured Czechoslovakia performing Verdi and Puccini. On his return to Vienna he continued a career as a musician and began publishing on the topic as well. In 1930 published a book on musical typology entitled Der Duale Sinn der Music.[1]:2 and in 1931 he produced a biography of the Italian composer Ferruccio Benvenuto Busoni entitled simple Ferruccio Busoni, 1866-1924.[1]:3

Throughout this period Nadel served as an assistant at the Psychologisches Institut and grew more and more interested in ethnomusicology. He produced radio programs for Radio Vienna on music which included discussions of non-Western music, and in 1930 wrote a piece on the marimba. This transformed into an interest in the anthropology of Africa, which was encouraged by Diedrich Westermann, with whom Nadel studied the musicology of 'primitive peoples' at the Phonogrammarchiv in Berlin, and African languages at the University of Berlin.

In 1932 Nadel was awarded a Rockefeller Fellowship, allowing him to do post-graduate training in anthropological African field research. Nadel studied at the London School of Economics, supervised by Bronisław Malinowski and C.G. Seligman.[1]:3 Nadel was one of three students—the other being Meyer Fortes and Sjoerd Hofstra—to receive this fellowship, and they became known as 'The Mandarins', one of the first cohort of students to study with Malinowski.[2]:118 A closely knit group, all them planned on studying West Africa, and even traveled in the same ship from England to Africa.[3]:ix Nadel began his fieldwork in Nigeria in 1933 with the Nupe people of modern-day Nigeria. His Ph.D., completed in 1935, was entitled Political and Religious Structure of Nupe Society.[2]:118

After earning his Ph.D. Nadel grew increasingly involved in British colonial administration. He continued to conduct fieldwork in Nigeria and lectured at the Summer School on Colonial Administration at the University of Oxford. In 1938 he became the Government Anthropologist of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan and conducted fieldwork with the Nuba. During a brief fieldbreak in Al-Ubayyid Nadel wrote Black Byzantium on the Nupe (which would not be published until 1942) and The Nuba: An Anthropological Study of the Hill Tribes in Kordofan (which would not appear in print until 1947). In 1941, as World War II broke out, Nadel enlisted in the Sudan Defence Force, transferring later that year to the British Army's East African Command.[2]:119 By this time Nadel had served on the Eritrean-Ethiopean border and was appointed, as a Major, Secretary of native Affairs in the British Military Administration of Eritrea. In 1944 he returned to England produced academic work on the Nuba and Eritrea, including Land Tenure on the Eritrean Pleateau. In 1945 he was transferred to the Home Establishment, promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel, and made Secretary of Native Affairs and Deputy Chief Secretary of the British Military Administration in Tripolitania.[2]:119

Nadel left government service in 1946 and quickly rose through the ranks of British anthropology. He served as a lecturer at the London School of Economics and then in 1948 became the head of the anthropology department at the University of Durham. In 1950 he was appointed to the inaugural chair in anthropology at the Australian National University.[2]:119 Originally, Raymond Firth had served as Advisor and Acting Director of the Research School of Pacific Studies while the ANU was initially formed. IN 1952, when Firth returned to England, Nadel was appointed dean.[4]:126 After his arrival in Canberra he also became Dean of the Research School of Pacific Studies.[1]:9 During the early 1950s Nadel published two more books, Foundations of Social Anthropology (1951) and Nupe Religion (1954). He died unexpectedly at the age of 53 of a coronary thrombosis.[2]:117 His Theory of Social Structure appeared posthumously in 1957. The life and work of Nadel is commemorated in the Nadel Essay Prize.


  1. ^ a b c d e Freeman, J.D. (1956). "Siegfried Frederick Nadel, 1903-1956". Oceania. 27 (1): 1–11.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Firth, Raymond (1957). "Siegfried Frederick Nadel, 1903-1956". American Anthropologist. 59 (1): 117–124. doi:10.1525/aa.1957.59.1.02a00110.
  3. ^ Fortes, Meyer (1957). Siegfried Frederick Nadel 1903-1956: A Memoir IN The Theory of Social Structure. London: Cohen & West Ltd. pp. ix–xvii.
  4. ^ Foster, S.G. (2009) [1996]. The Making of the Australian National University 1946-1996. Canberra: ANU EPress.


  • A Black Byzantium: the Kingdom of Nupe in Nigeria. (1942)
  • The Foundations of Social Anthropology. (1951)
  • Nupe Religion. (1954)
  • Nadel, S F (1956), "Culture and personality: a reexamination.", Med. J. Aust. (published 8 December 1956), 43 (23), pp. 845–9, PMID 13386575
  • The Theory of Social Structure. (1957)

Sources and external linksEdit