Edward Burnett Tylor

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Tylor, Edward Burnett

 

Born Oct. 2, 1832, in London; died Jan. 2, 1917, in Wellington, Somersetshire. British ethnographic specialist in primitive cultures.

Tylor became keeper of the University Museum at Oxford in 1883. In 1896 he became the first professor of anthropology at Oxford University. His main works were Primitive Culture (vols. 1–2,1871; Russian translation, 1939) and Anthropology (1881; in Russian translation, Introduction to the Study of Man and Civilization, 4th ed., 1924).

Along with H. Spencer, Tylor was one of the founders of the evolutionary school of cultural history and ethnography. In his treatment of the history of culture, Tylor was an idealist. He held that the ideas underlying technology and man’s economic and intellectual activities—ideas that have a life of their own—are embodied in the development of various kinds of tools, forms of art, rites, and beliefs. Tylor’s main field of interest was the history of spiritual culture, and particularly the development of religion. Through his wide-ranging studies of vestigial phenomena, Tylor revealed the historical roots of many customs and rituals that had been incomprehensible or that had acquired new meanings. His theory on the evolution of religion from animism was long dominant in science. Subsequently, however, the limitation of this theory became obvious, inasmuch as Tylor considered religion as merely a phenomenon of individual psychology and not as a fact of socially conscious existence.

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