Father Franz Boas--Father of American Anthropology

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Father Franz Boas--Father of American Anthropology Franz Boas is often referred to as the father of American anthropology because of the great influence he had in the lives and the careers of the next great generation of anthropologists in America. He came at a time when anthropology was not considered a true science or even a meaningful discipline and brought an air of respectability to the profession, giving those who followed a passion and an example of how to approach anthropology. Boas directed the field studies and trained such prominent anthropologists as Alfred Louis Kroeber, Robert Lowie, Margaret Mead, as well as others. Although he did not leave as his legacy any specific line of thought, he left a pattern that was followed by numerous scientists in the next generation. Franz Boas studied physics and geography in Germany and left to pursue his hypothesis on was born and raised in Germany and studied physics and geography. After receiving his doctorate in geography he left Germany and went to Baffin Island to test his hypothesis on Arctic geography. While he was there he became fascinated with the Eskimos and how they lived. From then on he was no longer a geographer but an Anthropologist. Boas was Jewish and was criticized all his life about being Jewish. His work showed his resentment of Anti-Semitism, reflecting the belief that all men are created equal. At the time anthropology was based on the beliefs of men like Tylor and Spencer who believed in evolutionary theories that stated that some people are more evolved than others. They believed in categorizing different cultures depending on how evolved they were. These men also did not do any field work, they received their information from missionaries, government officials, and other people who traveled the world. They categorized cultures by putting them into a line starting with barbarians and ending with white people. Anthropologists then ranked them depending on how civilized they thought they were. They also felt that people at the high end of the line(whites) had one time been where these other cultures are and feel this sort of a “psychic unity” towards them. Boas was the first anthropologist to do field work. He believed it was essential to live with certain cultures to get the real feel of what they were like. He be... ... middle of paper ... ...tists who were trying to get the larger picture. Boas was interested in studying a very small and specific window of time, which came from the data that he collected while performing the field work he deemed necessary to analyze a culture. There is no question that anthropology as a discipline and as a science took on a new life after the arrival of Frank Boas. Not only did anthropology gain respect in the scientific and the “civilian” world, but also it gained respect in the anthropological field as well. The work that Boas performed, both in studies and in organization skills, were testaments to a man who has given so much to the discipline. He was able to profoundly influence a number of thinkers and scientists in his own field the validity of his methods of work and get them to institute them across the board for use by all anthropologists. Boas was able to do this not only for himself, but more importantly, for the generations of American anthropologists after him. The influence that he had on Mead, Radin, et. al. is quite remarkable and needs to be noted. Boas’ role and honor as the head of American anthropology is well documented and most deserved.
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