Lawrence Krader was born in New York City on December 9, 1919. Although not a famous public intellectual, he was offered appointments to America’s top-ranked universities over the years. He began his studies at the City College of New York (CCNY) in 1937 where he studied philosophy with Morris Raphael Cohen, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1941. His excellence in the area of the history of philosophy won him the covered Ketchum Prize in that field.
In 1939 he spent a year at the University of Chicago with Rudolf Carnap, after which he returned to CCNY to serve as Alfred Tarski’s research assistant. (Tarski came to CCNY after Bertrand Russell’s appointment was blocked by the NYC administration of Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia. Krader was to have served as Russell’s research assistant). At City Krader helped Tarski translate his book Introduction to Logic from Polish into English, an effort which Tarski acknowledged in the Introduction to this translation.
Krader was appointed to a position at the Far Eastern Institute at the University of Washington in 1947 by Karl August Wittfogel. It was there that Krader met and befriended Karl Korsch who had come to visit his old friend Wittfogel. Korsch and his wife Hedda were then domiciled in Cambridge, MA and Krader continued his friendship with Korsch when he moved to Cambridge to begin his doctoral studies at Harvard University in 1949. It was at Korsch’s behest that Krader transcribed, edited and introduced The Ethnological Notebooks of Karl Marx (1972).
Krader turned down several offers of appointment to Harvard University where he completed his doctoral dissertation in 1954 on “The Kinship Systems of the Altaic-speaking Peoples of the Asiatic Steppe.” Just prior to completing his doctorate, he married Dr. Barbara Lattimer, an accomplished linguist and ethno-musicologist, whom he had met while attending Roman Jakobson’s graduate linguistic seminar at Columbia University where his future wife served as Jakobson’s research assistant.
Krader taught anthropology at the University of Ohio, the University of Syracuse and the City University of New York, as well as linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where he was offered a position in linguistics by Ithiel de Sola Pool. From 1969-1972 he was the Chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Waterloo in Canada.
His last academic appointment was as Professor and Director of the Insitut für Ethnologie at the Freie Universität Berlin from 1972 to 1982. As Professor Emeritus he composed more than 150 manuscripts on a wide variety of topics in philosophy, anthropology, linguistics, history and related disciplines until his death on November 15, 1998.
He endowed The Lawrence Krader Research Project at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario under the direction of Prof. Cyril Levitt. The Project has been functioning since May 2008 having published two of Krader’s collections of manuscripts including Labor and Value (2003) and Noetics (2010).