Father Franz Boas--Father of American Anthropology Essays

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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

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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