Biography of Franz Boas

Boas, Franz (1858-1942)

Franz Boas was a German-American anthropologist who is considered by many to be the ‘Father of American Anthropology’. He may be most commonly known for refuting the basic principles of racist ideology. He pioneered the concept of dioramas for exhibitions. He studies and collected information on archaeology, art, dance, linguistics, and race, and upon these studies and collections based his theory of relativism which debunked the prevailing beliefs that Western Civilization is superior to less complex societies.

He was born in 1858 and died in 1942.

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1858 – he is born in Minden, Westphalia, Germany

1881 – he gets a Ph.D in physics with a minor in geography from University of Kiel

1883-1884 – he gets his first fieldwork experience amongst the Inuit people of the Baffin Island in Canada

1885-1886 – he conducts fieldwork in Canada for museums. He also gets involved in a project to bring the cultures of Native Americans to the general public for Chicago World’s Fair from 1892-1893

1896 – he moves to New York and is appointed Assistant Curator of Ethnology and Somatology at the American Museum of Natural History, and Lecturer at Columbia University

1899 – he becomes the first Professor of Anthropology at Columbia

1902 – he helps in the founding of the American Anthropological Association

1905 – he resigns from his position at the museum

1907-1909 – he is the president of the American Anthropological Association

1911 – his ‘The Mind of Primitive Man’ is published

1927 – his ‘Primitive Art’ is published

1931 – he is the president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science

1937 – he becomes Professor Emeritus

1940 – his ‘Race, Language, and Culture’ is published

1942 – he dies

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