Ruth Fulton Benedict (June 5, 1887 – September 17, 1948) was an American anthropologist and folklorist.
She was born in New York City, attended Vassar College and graduated in 1909. After studying anthropology at the New School of Social Research under Elsie Clews Parsons, she entered graduate studies at Columbia University in 1921, where she studied under Franz Boas. She received her PhD and joined the faculty in 1923. Margaret Mead, with whom she shared a romantic relationship, and Marvin Opler, were among her students and colleagues.
Franz Boas, her teacher and mentor, has been called the father of American anthropology and his teachings and point of view are clearly evident in Benedict's work.
Benedict held the post of President of the American Anthropological Association and was also a prominent member of the American Folklore Society. She became the first woman to be recognized as a prominent leader of a learned profession. She can be viewed as a transitional figure in her field, redirecting both anthropology and folklore away from the limited confines of culture-trait diffusion studies and towards theories of performance as integral to the interpretation of culture. She studied the relationships between personality, art, language and culture, insisting that no trait existed in isolation or self-sufficiency, a theory which she championed in her 1934 Patterns of Culture.