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|Birthplace||Minden, Westphalia, Germany|
|Education||Ph.D. in physics, University of Kiel (1881)|
Boas, Franz(bō`ăz, –ăs), 1858–1942, German-American anthropologist, b. Minden, Germany; Ph.D. Univ. of Kiel, 1881. He joined an expedition to Baffin Island in 1883 and initiated his fieldwork with observations of the Central Eskimos. In 1886, Boas began his investigations of the Native Americans of British Columbia. He secured at Clark Univ. his first position in the United States in 1889, and was associated with the American Museum of Natural History from 1895 to 1905. Boas began to lecture at Columbia in 1896, and in 1899 became its first professor of anthropology, a position he held for 37 years. Boas greatly influenced American anthropology, particularly in his development of the theoretical framework known as cultural relativism, which argued against the evolutionary scale leading from savagery to Culture, laid out by his 19th-century predecessors. He believed that cultures (plural) are too complex to be evaluated according to the broad theorizing characteristic of evolutionary "laws" of developing culture (singular). Instead, Boas sought to understand the development of societies through their particular histories. He established the "four-field approach" through his concern with human evolution, archaeology, language, and culture, each of which has become a sub-field in the wider discipline of anthropology in the United States. Boas reexamined the premises of physical anthropology and was a pioneer in the application of statistical methods to biometric study. Boas was an early critic of the use of race as an explanation for difference in the natural and social sciences, emphasizing instead the importance of environment in the evaluation of individual capabilities, and made important contributions to stratigraphic archaeology in Mexico. As a student of Native American languages, Boas emphasized the importance of linguistic analysis from internal linguistic structure, and pointed out that language was a fundamental aspect of culture. His insistence on rigorous methodology served to establish the scientific value of his contributions, and his methods and conclusions are still widely influential. Boas taught and inspired a generation of anthropologists, notably Margaret MeadMead, Margaret,
1901–78, American anthropologist, b. Philadelphia, grad. Barnard, 1923, Ph.D. Columbia, 1929. In 1926 she became assistant curator, in 1942 associate curator, and from 1964 to 1969 she was curator of ethnology of the American Museum of Natural History, New
..... Click the link for more information. and Ruth BenedictBenedict, Ruth Fulton,
1887–1948, American anthropologist, b. New York City, grad. Vassar, 1909, Ph.D. Columbia, 1923. She was a student and later a colleague of Franz Boas at Columbia, where she taught from 1924.
..... Click the link for more information. , who pioneered the "culture and personality" school of anthropology. A prolific writer, Boas's works include The Mind of Primitive Man (1911, rev. ed. 1983); Anthropology and Modern Life (1928, repr. 1984); Kwakiutl Ethnography (1966).
See G. W. Stocking, Jr.'s Franz Boas Reader: Shaping of American Anthropology, 1883–1911 (1982); biography by M. J. Herskovits (1953, repr. 1973).
Born July 9, 1858, in Minden, Westphalia; died Dec. 21, 1942, in New York. American linguist, and social and physical anthropologist; a specialist in the languages and culture of American Indians, principally of the northwest coast, and of the Eskimos.
Boas took part in Arctic expeditions in 1883–84. He moved to the USA in 1886 and began teaching at Columbia University in 1896. He was a founder and president (1928) of the American Linguistics Society. As one of the founders of American descriptive linguistics and of a very significant school in American ethnography (social anthropology), Boas developed a procedure for formal descriptions of native American languages.
Boas’ work on the physical anthropology and archaeology of North America is of great importance. While criticizing various trends in the bourgeois ethnography of his time, Boas often took stands reflecting a spontaneous materialist outlook in his analysis of concrete social phenomena. He unmasked and denounced racist teachings. Boas was known as an antifascist and was an active participant in various organizations of the US liberal intelligentsia that fought for democratic reforms.
WORKSHandbook of American Indian Languages, vols. 1–2. Washington, D.C., 1911–22.
Anthropology and Modern Life. London, 1929.
Race, Language, and Culture, 2nd ed. New York, 1948.
Race and Democratic Society. New York, 1946.
In Russian translation:
“Vvedenie k ’Rukovodstvu po iazykam amerikanskikh indeitsev.’” In V. A. Zvegintsev, Istoriia iazykoznaniia XIX i XX vekov v ocherkakh i izvlecheniiakh, 2nd ed., part 2. Moscow, 1965. 2nd ed., part 2. Moscow, 1965.
Um pervobytnogo cheloveka. Moscow-Leningrad, 1926.
REFERENCESOsnovnye napravleniia strukturalizma. Moscow, 1964.
Averkieva, Iu. P. “F. Boas (1858–1942).” Kratkie soobshcheniia In-ta etnografii AN SSSR, vol. 1, 1946.
IU. P. AVERKIEVA and V. V. RASKIN