“Anthropology at large has not yet developed an acute historical consciousness.”
– Irving Hallowell (1967)[2]

“…the speculative anthropology of the 18th and of the early 19th century is distinct in its scope and method from the science which is called anthropology at the present time…”
– Franz Boas (1904)[3, p.513]

“At the present time anthropologists occupy themselves with problems relating to the physical and mental life of mankind as found in varying forms of society, from the earliest times up to the present period, and in all parts of the world.”
– Franz Boas (1904)[3, p.513]

“…we find in anthropology two distinct methods of research and aims of investigation : the one, the historical method, which endeavors to reconstruct the actual history of mankind ; the other, the generalizing method, which attempts to establish the laws of its development.”
– Franz Boas (1904)[3, p.514]

“One hears a fair amount these days, some of it hopeful, much of it skeptical, and almost all of it nervous, about the supposed impact of Anthropology, the Science, upon History, the Discipline.”
– Clifford Geertz (1990)[4, p.321]

Anthropology Definitions

Samuel Johnson’s 1755 “A Dictionary of the English Language” defined anthropology as:[5]
“The doctrine of anatomy; the doctrine of the form and structure of the body of man.”

Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defined it as:[6]
1 – “A discourse upon human nature.”
2 – “The doctrine of the structure of the human body; the natural history or physiology of the human species.”
3 – “The word denotes that manner of expression by which the inspired writers attribute human parts and passions to God.”

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defined it as:[7]
1 – “the science of human beings. especially the study of human beings and their ancestors through time and space and in relation to physical character, environmental and social relations, and culture”
2 – “theology dealing with the origin, nature, and destiny of human beings” defined it as:[8]
1 – the science that deals with the origins, physical and cultural development, biological characteristics, and social customs and beliefs of humankind.
2 – the study of human beings’ similarity to and divergence from other animals.
3 – the science of humans and their works.
4 – Also called philosophical anthropology. the study of the nature and essence of humankind.

Lexico definted it as:[9]
1 – The study of human societies and cultures and their development.
1.1 – The study of human biological and physiological characteristics and their evolution.

Anthropology Etymology

c.1560 – Earliest use according to the Google Ngram Viewer. Its use increased steadily from around 1850 onwards.

1585-1595 – Allegedly the first time we know of that it was used.
“anthropo- + -logy”[8]

1590s – “”science of the natural history of man,” …originally especially of the relation between physiology and psychology, from Modern Latin anthropologia or coined independently in English from anthropo- + -logy. In Aristotle, anthropologos is used literally, as “speaking of man.” Related: Anthropologicanthropological.”[1]

1593 – Allegedly the first time we know of that it was used. Defined as point 1 above.
“borrowed from New Latin anthropologia “study of humanity, science of human nature,” from anthropo- ANTHROPO- + -logia -LOGY”[7]

“from ἄνθρωπος, man, and λέγω, to discourse.”
– Samuel Johnson (1755)[5]

Father of Anthropology

Edward Burnett Tylor, Franz Boas, Anténor Firmin, Buffon, and Paul Broca have all been identified as the or a founder or father of anthropology.

Edward Burnett Tylor (1832-1917) was identified as the “widely regarded … founder of anthropology”.[11, p.41] Your Dictionary reports that he was considered the “founder of anthropology”.[14] Regna Darnell identified him as the “putative founder of anthropology”.[20, p.156] Cambridge University Press identified Tylor as the “widely considered …  founder of anthropology as a scientific discipline”.[21]

Mary Krupka reported that Franz Boas (1858–1942) is considered the “founder of anthropology”.[12] The Directory of Classes from Columbia University identified Franz Boas as “founder of anthropology in the United States (and of Anthropology at Columbia).[18] Living Anthropologically identified Franz Boas as “a prominent founder of academic anthropology”.[19]

Anténor Firmin (1850-1911) was identified as “a forgotten founder of anthropology”.[13]

“From the end of the 18th century, the naturalists and then the historians who copied them unanimously hailed Buffon as the founder of anthropology.”
– Claude Blanckaert[15, p.13]

Tsuboi Shōgorō (1863–1913) was identified by Keiichi Omoto as the “founder of anthropology in Japan”.[16]

Paul Broca (1824-1880) was identified by Androutsos G and Diamantis A as the “founder of anthropology”.[17]

Cai Yuanpei (1868–1940) was identified by Gang Chen as the “founder of anthropology and ethnology in China”.[22]

Gillian Feeley-Harnik identified Lewis Henry Morgan (1818-1881) as the “founder of anthropology in the U.S.”.[22]

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[1] – Accessed 21 August 2020.

[2] – Whiteley, Peter M. “Why Anthropology Needs More History.” Journal of Anthropological Research, vol. 60, no. 4, 2004, pp. 487-514. JSTOR, Accessed 21 Aug. 2020.

[3] – Boas, Franz. “The History of Anthropology.” Science, vol. 20, no. 512, 1904, pp. 513-524. JSTOR, Accessed 21 Aug. 2020.

[4] – Geertz, Clifford. “History and Anthropology.” New Literary History, vol. 21, no. 2, 1990, pp. 321-335. JSTOR, Accessed 21 Aug. 2020.

[5] – Accessed 7 Oct. 2020.

[6] – Accessed 7 Oct. 2020.

[7] – “Anthropology.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Oct. 2020.

[8] – Accessed 7 Oct. 2020.

[9] – Accessed 7 Oct. 2020.

[10] – Accessed 8 Oct. 2020.

[11] – Accessed 11 Nov. 2020.

[12] – Accessed 11 Nov. 2020.

[13] – Accessed 11 Nov. 2020.

[14] – Accessed 11 Nov. 2020.

[15] – Blanckaert, Claude. “Buffon and the Natural History of Man: Writing History and the ‘foundational Myth’ of Anthropology.” History of the Human Sciences, vol. 6, no. 1, Feb. 1993, pp. 13–50, Accessed 11 Nov. 2020.

[16] – Accessed 11 Nov. 2020.

[17] – Androutsos G, Diamantis A. “Paul Broca (1824-1880): founder of anthropology, pioneer of neurology and oncology.” (30 Sept. 2007). Accessed 11 Nov. 2020.

[18] – Accessed 11 Nov. 2020.

[19] – Accessed 11 Nov. 2020.

[20] – Darnell, Regna. “Toward a History of Canadian Departments of Anthropology: Retrospect, Prospect and Common Cause.” Anthropologica, vol. 40, no. 2, 1998, pp. 153–168. JSTOR, Accessed 11 Nov. 2020.

[21] – Accessed 11 Nov. 2020.

[22] – Accessed 11 Nov. 2020.

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