Franz Boas

Franz Boas

Widely considered to be one of the greatest and most influential anthropologists ever, Franz Boas was a German-American scientist, who is also known as the “Father of Modern Anthropology”. He was the first person to implement the scientific method into the study of human cultures and societies.

Early Life and Education:

Born in Minden, Westphalia, Franz Boas showed an early interest in both nature and natural sciences. He studied at the universities of Heidelberg, Bonn, and Kiel, and finally got his Ph.D. in physics with a minor in geography from the University of Kiel in 1881.

Boas worked in Baffinland, Canada, from 1883 to 1884, while from 1885 to 1886; he conducted field research in several museums on the North Pacific Coast of North America. He was also an important part of a project involving the cultures of Native Americans which lasted almost one year.

Contributions and Achievements:

Franz Boas was the most important figure in 20th century North American anthropology. He laid down the four-field structure of the discipline around cultural, physical, linguistic and archaeological disciplines pertaining to the American Indian. He also trained many professional anthropologists. Boas made memorable contributions to the changes in immigrant head form undercut eugenics arguments and lessened the significance of anthropometric measures of race.

The archaeological works of Franz Boas were almost cursory. While studying culture, his theoretical contributions dealt with the critique of evolution. He destroyed the rationalist theories of human nature. His historical particularism, his insistency on stringent ethnographic method, and his stress on “the native point of view” were pivotal to the development of modern anthroplogy.

Later Life and Death:

Franz Boas oversaw the Columbia Anthropology Department for more than four decades. Boas died on 21 December, 1942. He was 84 years old.