Born in Italy, Mary Douglas was educated at Oxford University and began her career as a civil servant in 1943. Her first field research was carried out in what was then the Belgian Congo and she taught at Oxford and the University of London before moving to the United States in 1977. Purity and Danger (1966) is an essay about the logic of pollution beliefs, suggesting that ideas about dirt and disorder outline and reinforce particular social orders. Her other essays exploring the implicit meanings of cultural symbols follow a similar Durkheimian format. Her recent interests have turned to analysis of risk behavior and cross-cultural attitudes about food and alcohol.
Aaron Wildavsky was, until his death in 1993, professor of political science and public policy at the University of California in Berkeley. He was also director of its Survey Research Center.