Gregory Bateson

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Bateson with Margaret Mead in the late 1930s. Photo by C. H. Waddington.
Born May 9, 1904(1904-05-09)
Grantchester, United Kingdom
Died April 14, 1980(1980-04-14) (aged 78)
San Francisco, United States
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Gregory Bateson was an English anthropologist, social scientist, linguist, visual anthropologist, semiotician and cyberneticist whose work intersected that of many other fields.

He was born in 1904 as the third and youngest son of [Caroline] Beatrice Durham and the geneticist William Bateson. Resisting family pressures to follow in his father's footsteps, he completed his degree in anthropology instead of natural science, and left England to do field work in New Guinea. It was on his second trip there, in 1956, that he met his fellow anthropologist Margaret Mead, whom he later married; their only child, Mary Catherine Bateson, is also an anthropologist. Bateson and Mead were divorced in 1950, but they continued to collaborate professionally and maintained their friendship until Mead's death in 1978.

In the years to follow, Bateson became a visiting professor of anthropology at Harvard (1947); later was appointed research associate at the Langley Porrer Neuropsychiatric Institute in San Francisco; worked as ethnologist at the Palo Alto Veterans Administration Hospital (where he developed the double-bind theory of schizophrenia and formulated a new theory of learning). He worked with dolphins at the Oceanographic Institute in Hawaii and taught at the University of Hawaii. In 1972 he joined the University of California at Santa Cruz.

Visual anthropology[edit]

In the 1930s, Bateson and Mead conducted an ambitious photography and film project in Bali, inspired by Mead's conviction that visual anthropology could serve a scientific, objective method. They studied the people of the Balinese village Bajoeng Gede. David Lipset states that "in the short history of [their] ethnographic fieldwork, film was used both on a large scale and as the primary research tool". They took around 25,000 photographs, and also shot a short documentary Trance and Dance in Bali, which was not released until 1952.


The documentary An Ecology of Mind (2011) by his daughter Nora Bateson premiered at the Vancouver International Film Festival.


(in English unless noted otherwise)


Steps to an Ecology of Mind, 1972, PDF; 1987, PDF.
  • with Jurgen Ruesch, Communication: The Social Matrix of Psychiatry, New York: W. W. Norton, 1951, vi+314 pp.
    • Comunicación: la matriz social de la psiquiatría, trans. Raquel Ferrario, Buenos Aires: Paidós, 1965, 246 pp. (Spanish)
    • Communication et société, trans. Gerald Dupuis, Paris: Seuil, 1988, 346 pp. (French)
    • Komyunikēshon: seishin igaku no shakaiteki matorikkusu [コミュニケーション: 精神医学の社会的マトリックス], Tokyo: Shisakusha, 1989, 335 pp. (Japanese)
  • editor, Perceval's Narrative: A Patient's Account of His Psychosis, 1830-1832, Stanford University Press, 1961, xxii+331 pp; London: Hogarth, 1962; repr., New York: William Morrow and Company, 1974.
    • Perceval le fou: autobiographie d'un schizophrene (1830-1832), trans. Monique Manin, Paris: Payot, 1975, 318 pp. (French)
    • Het dossier John Thomas Perceval, trans. H.A. Vlaanderen, Amsterdam: Candide, 2002, 127 pp. (Dutch)
    • Perceval: un paziente narra la propria psicosi: 1830-1832, trans. Paolo Bertrando, Torino: Bollati Boringhieri, 2005, 381 pp. (Italian)
  • Steps to an Ecology of Mind, San Francisco: Chandler, 1972, 542 pp; repr., Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1987; repr., University of Chicago Press, 2000. Collection of writings.
    • Verso un'ecologia della mente, trans. Giuseppe Longo, Milan: Adelphi, 1977, EPUB. (Italian)
    • Vers une écologie de l'esprit, 2 vols., trans. Ferial Drosso, Laurencine Lot and Eugène Simion, Paris: Seuil, 1977-1980, 281 & 285 pp. (French)
    • Ökologie des Geistes: anthropologische, psychologische, biologische und epistemologische Perspektiven, trans. Hans Günter Holl, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1981, 675 pp. (German)
    • Seishin no seitaigaku [精神の生態学], 2 vols., trans. Yoshiaki Satō, Tokyo: Shisakusha, 1985-1987; 2nd ed., 2000. (Japanese)
    • Metaloger, trans. Einar Sigge, Göteborg: Korpen, 1986, 94 pp. Trans. of excerpt. (Swedish)
    • Kunsten at tænke: Gregory Batesons metaloger, ed. & trans. Jens Kjeldsen, Herning: Systime, 1993, 69 pp. Trans. of excerpt. (Danish)
    • Pasos hacia una ecología de la mente, trans. Rámon Alcalde, Buenos Aires: Lohlé-Lumen, 1998, 549 pp. (Spanish)
    • Ekologii razuma: izbrannye statʹi po antropologii, psikhiatrii i epistemologii, trans. D. Ia. Fedotova and M.P. Papusha, Moscow: Smysl, 2000, 476 pp. (Russian)
    • Mentale systemers økologi: skridt i en udvikling, trans. Bjørn Nake, Copenhagen: Akademisk Forlag, 2005, 526 pp. (Danish)
    • Ekologie mysli , trans. Pavel Černovský and Marek Kučera, Prague: Malvern, 2018, 507 pp. (Czech)
    • Ekologija idej: zbrani eseji iz antropologije, psihiatrije, evolucije in epistemologije, trans. Gregor Pobežin, Ljubljana: Beletrina, 2019, 568 pp. (Slovenian)
  • Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity, New York: E. P. Dutton, 1979; repr., Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 2002.
    • Geist und Natur: eine notwendige Einheit, trans. Hans Günter Holl, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1982, 284 pp. (German)
    • Espíritu y naturaleza, trans. Leondro Wolfson, Buenos Aires: Amorrortu, 1982, ix+204 pp; 2nd ed., 1997. (Spanish)
    • La nature et la pensée: esprit et nature, une unité nécessaire, trans. Alain Cardoën, Marie-Claire Chiarieri and Jean-Luc Giribone, Paris: Seuil, 1984. (French)
    • Mente e natura. Un'unità necessaria, trans. Giuseppe Longo, Milan: Adelphi, 1984. (Italian)
    • Het verbindend patroon, trans. Evelien Tonkens, Paul Sandwijk and Ton Maas, Amsterdam: Bakker, 1984, 304 pp. (Dutch)
    • Ånd og natur: en nødvendig enhed, trans. Harry Mortensen, Copenhagen: Rosinante, 1984, 224 pp. (Danish)
    • Mente e natureza: a unidade necessaria, trans. Claudia Gerpe, Rio de Janeiro: Alves, 1986, 235 pp. (Brazilian Portuguese)
    • Natureza e espírito: uma unidade necessária, Lisbon: Publicações Quixote, 1987, 205 pp. (Portuguese)
    • Ande och natur: en nödvändig enhet, trans. Carl G Liungman, Stockholm: Symposion, 1987, 323 pp. (Swedish)
    • Umysł i przyroda: jedność konieczna, trans. Anna Tanalska-Dulęba, Warsaw: Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, 1996, 315 pp. (Polish)
    • Mysl & příroda: nezbytná jednota , trans. Lucie Šavlíková, Prague: Malvern, 2006, 197 pp. (Czech)
    • Xin ling yu zi ran: ying ran de he [心灵与自然: 应然的合], trans. Xuyang Qian, Beijing: Beijing shi fan da xue chu ban she, 2019, 271 pp. (Chinese)
  • with Mary Catherine Bateson, Angels Fear: Towards an Epistemology of the Sacred, 1987, OL; repr., Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 2004.
    • Där änglar är rädda att gå: bidrag till en epistemologi, trans. Bosse Holmqvist, Stockholm: Symposion, 1988, 226 pp. (Swedish)
    • La peur des anges: vers une épistémologie du sacré, trans. Christian Cler and Jean-Luc Giribone, Paris: Seuil, 1989, 296 pp. (French)
    • Dove gli angeli esitano. Verso un'epistemologia del sacro, trans. Giuseppe Longo, Milan: Adelphi, 1989, EPUB. (Italian)
    • El temor de los ángeles: epistemología de lo sagrado, trans. Alberto L. Bixio, Barcelona: Gedisa, 1989, 218 pp. (Spanish)
    • Waar engelen zich niet wagen: een kentheorie van het heilige, trans. Ton Maas and Frits Smeets, Amsterdam: Contact, 1990, 247 pp. (Dutch)
    • Hvor engle ej tør træde: på vej mod en erkendelsesteori om det hellige, trans. Harry Mortensen, Copenhagen: Rosinante, 1990, 223 pp. (Danish)
    • Wo Engel zögern: unterwegs zu einer Epistemologie des Heiligen, trans. Hans Ulrich Möhring, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1993, 312 pp. (German)




Journal issues[edit]

  • Semiotics, Evolution, Energy, and Development 4(1): Special Issue on Gregory Bateson, ed. Peter Harries-Jones, Mar 2004.
  • The American Journal of Semiotics 18(4): "Gregory Bateson: A Sign", Dec 2004.
  • Cybernetics & Human Knowing 12(1-2), Special Issue on Gregory Bateson, eds. Frederick Steier and Søren Brier, 2005. [3]
  • Kybernetes 36(7/8): "Gregory Bateson memoriam", eds. Monika Silvia Broecker and Georg Ivanovas, 2007. [4]
  • Grey Room 66: "Bateson Dossier", ed. Bernard Dionysius Geoghegan, Winter 2017. [5]

Book chapters, papers, articles[edit]

  • Lawrence B. Slobodkin, "Mind, bind, and ecology: A review of Gregory Bateson's collected essays", Human Ecology 2:1 (1974), pp 67-74.
  • Steve P. Heims, "Gregory Bateson and the Mathematicians: From Interdisciplinary Interaction to Societal Functions", Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences 13 (1977), pp 141-159.
  • Ira Jacknis, "Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson in Bali: Their Use of Photography and Film", Cultural Anthropology 3:2 (May 1988), pp 160-177.
  • Brian Stagoll, "Gregory Bateson (1904–1980): a reappraisal", Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 39:11-12 (2005), pp 1036-1045.
  • Sarah Pink, "Interdisciplinary Agendas. (Re)situating Visual Anthropology", chapter 2 of The Future of Visual Anthropology: Engaging the Senses, London & New York: Routledge, 2006, pp 25-29.
  • Bernard Dionysius Geoghegan, "The Family as Machine: Film, Infrastructure, and Cybernetic Kinship in Suburban America", Grey Room 66 (Winter 2017), pp 70–101.

Documentary films[edit]

  • An Ecology of Mind, dir. Nora Bateson, 60 min, 2010. [6] [7]