Denise O'Brien, 78, of Wyndmoor, professor emeritus of anthropology at Temple University, died of heart failure Nov. 28 at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

A native of Honeoye Falls, N.Y., Dr. O'Brien earned a bachelor's degree from Vassar College and a doctorate in anthropology from Yale University. In the late 1960s she visited west New Guinea and developed an interest in ethnography, the study of individual cultures. She later researched gender and power issues in Japan and Indonesia. She recently completed a book on 15th-century Japanese women writers.

Dr. O'Brien joined the Temple faculty in 1977. She was involved with the Women's Studies and Asian Studies programs and often taught art courses. In 1982 she lectured at Nankai University in China. From 1985 to 1991 she was a professor and administrator at Temple's campus in Tokyo. She retired last year.

An only child, Dr. O'Brien was close to her extended family and in July attended a reunion of more than 100 cousins in Watkins Glen, N.Y.

She enjoyed cooking and collecting fine wines, and listening to opera. A sportswoman, she skied in Colorado, where she owned a condo, even after heart surgery, said her cousin Neil Garvey, and swam in the Antarctic in January while on a cruise.

Dr. O'Brien is survived by cousins.

Friends may call from 1 to 3 p.m. today, with a prayer service at 2, at Donohue Funeral Home, 366 W. Lancaster Ave., Wayne. Burial will be in Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cemetery, Ridgebury, Pa.