Biography

Franz Boas was born on July 9, 1858 in Minden, Germany. He earned his baccalaureate from the University of Heidelberg in 1881, and in that same year earned his Ph.D. from the University of Kiel, Germany. Boas conducted his first Arctic fieldwork on Baffin Island (1883-1884) before his intellectual interests shifted to ethnology and anthropology. He subsequently served as assistant to Adolf Bastian at the Königliches Museum für Völkerkunde (the Royal Museum of Ethnology), Berlin, 1885-1886. He emigrated to the United States in 1886 and served as a lecturer in anthropology at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts (1889-1892). From there, he worked at the Field Museum in Chicago, moving to New York in 1895 to work at the American Museum of Natural History. In 1899, he was appointed a professor at Columbia University, New York City, where he founded the country's first Ph.D. program in anthropology and trained several generations of anthropologists. Boas's ideas and research led to the development of the notion of "cultural relativism," which significantly altered the field of anthropology for years to come. Cultural relativism recognized that the differences in peoples were the results of historical, social, and geographic conditions, and that all populations had complete and equally developed culture. This countered more traditional views of culture that were often based on evolution, ethno-centrism, and even racism. Boas died on December 22, 1942.

Peter Kulchyski

See also Eskimology; International Polar Years; Inuit; Jenness, Diamond; Klutschak, Henry Wenzel

Further Reading

Boas, Franz, The Mind of Primitive Man, New York: Macmillan, 1924 (originally published as a course of lectures delivered before the Lowell Institute, Boston, Massachusetts, and the National University of Mexico, 1910-1911)

-, Race, Language and Culture, New York; The

Macmillan Company, 1940

-, Primitive Art, New York: Dover Publications, 1955

-, Anthropology and Modern Life, New York; Dover

Publications, 1962

-, The Central Eskimo, Lincoln: University of Nebraska

Press, 1964

Klutschak, Henry W., Overland to Starvation Cove, translated and edited by-William Barr, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1987

Müller-Wille, Ludger (editor), Franz Boas Among the Inuit of Baffin Island 1883-1884, translated by William Barr, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998 Stocking Jr., George (editor), A Franz Boas Reader, Chicago:

University of Chicago Press, 1982 Williams, Vernon J., Rethinking Race: Franz Boaz and his Contemporaries, Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1996

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