The Marshall McLuhan Papers in the George Gerbner Archive in the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania


 George Gerbner (1919 – 2005)

George Gerbner was a professor of communication and originator of cultivation theory which examines the long-term effects of television, it’s primary proposition being that the images and ideological messages transmitted through popular TV media heavily influence perceptions of the real world.

Born in Budapest, Hungary, he emigrated to the United States in late 1939. He was the Dean of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania (1964–1989) and presided over the school’s growth and influence in Communication Theory in academia.

Gerbner established the Cultural Indicators Research Project in 1968 to document trends in television content and how these changes affect viewers’ perceptions of the world. He coined the phrase mean world syndrome to describe the fact that people who watch large amounts of television are more likely to perceive the world as a dangerous and frightening place. (Wikipedia, full biography at

Although Gerbner is not mentioned in the biographies of Marshall McLuhan and there are no letters to or from Gerbner in the Letters of Marshall McLuhan (1987), their mutual interest in the effects of television at a time when television was at the height of its impact and influence probably led them to communicate. There are a few useful documents in this small collection, notably several of the letters, the short biography by University of Toronto President Claude Bissell, a draft of Laws of the Media: Structural and the other documents are not without interest.

The Marshall McLuhan Papers

Located online at )

  • Correspondence 03/14/1960 – 10/04/1977
    George Gerbner, Marshall McLuhan, Edmund Brown, Arthur Hurst, Tom Cooper, Nathan Pletcher, Marrill Pannitt, Susan Schmidt, E.T. Hall.
  • Correspondence
    From: George Gerbner
    To: Sandra Grilikhes, Carolyn Marvin, Merrill Panitt, Larry Gross, Robert Hornik, Klaus Krippendorff, Paul Messaris
    Date: March 22, 1983
  • Biography (1)
    Author unknown.
  • Biography (2)
    Article Title: McLuhan, (Herbert) Marshall
    Journal Title: Current Biography
    Issue Date: 1967
    Pages: 270 – 273
  • Biography (3)
    Article Title: Herbert Marshall McLuhan
    Author: Claude T. Bissell
    Journal Title: Proceedings of the Royal Society of Canada
    Issue Number: 19
    Issue Date: 1981
  • Laws of the Media: Structural Approach
    A draft.
    Article Title: Laws of the Media: Structural Approach
    Author: Marshall McLuhan
  • The Gospel According to McLuhan
    Article Title: The Gospel According to McLuhan
    Author: MAM
    Journal Title: The Pennsylvania Gazette
    Issue Date: June 1966
    Pages: 3 – 37
  • The McLuhan Galaxy
    Sent to George Gerbner as correspondence.
    From: Tom Cooper
    To: George Gerbner
    Article Title: The McLuhan Galaxy
    Author: Brian Winston
    Journal Title: Channels

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