Rathje, William L.

Rathje, William L. (Laurens)

(1945–  ) anthropologist, garbologist; born in South Bend, Ind. He took his Ph.D. in anthropology at Harvard in 1971 and returned to the University of Arizona, his undergraduate alma mater, to teach anthropology. In 1973 he formed the Garbage Project, initially as a method by which student anthropologists could analyze aspects of the local community. In the years following, he not only demonstrated how garbage can be used in this way, but also made certain discoveries; garbage and refuse, he found, decompose much more slowly in modern dumps than thought. He is credited with coining the term "garbology," the study of a society by the examination of its refuse. Among his many publications, he coauthored Rubbish! The Archaeology of Garbage (1992) and "Beyond the Pail," a 1991 essay in Garbage magazine.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.