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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 believed that empirical observation is the only way to create an understanding. He did not want data from someone else because it was of no use to him if he did not record it. Boas’ rejection of data that was not collected in the field is well-documented and presents a nature that was very specific in its analysis of the subject. His determination to go out into the field and collect the data for the project ushered in a new respectability to the field in that he was not merely regurgitating data that had been collected for another study but rather he was analyzing a specific set of information that was pertinent to the study at hand. He introduced the concept of empirical observation. This initial use of fieldwork set Boas ahead of the rest of the anthropologists. He was not content to take old data and make it suit his theories. Rather, he embraced the scientific method and collected data and then reworked his thesis to fit the information dictated by the data set found. Boas lived what he preached, and this can be seen in his numerous trips to live among the natives of the land. He put in stints in the Arctic, with the Kwakitul of the Pacific Northwest. Boas also felt that learning a language was a significant part of understanding a culture, something that was a new concept. Along these lines, Boas recognized the importance of reaching into the past to create and preserve the present, again setting himself ahead of the rest of his contemporaries. The idea of cultural whole is that every culture was a complete system. He felt that anthropologists should not rank cultures. Instead, Boas stated that societies could not be compared, a concept known as cultural relativism. Cultures were the evolution of societies over a period of time, and there was not right or wrong in a culture nor was their an inferior or a superior culture. Cultures were separate entities that existed solely in their own plane of existence. Boas also felt that each culture had its own unique history, and that the anthropologist had a responsibility to study that one in turn. The anthropologist could no effectively analyze a culture without effectively understanding it from all aspects and from all sides. To be sure, Boas went against the major trends of thought among anthropologists of the day. His rejection of the unilateral theory that has been proposed by Tylor was almost blasphemous among the intelligentsia of the anthropologists, but the strength that he had in his beliefs was enough to carry him through the complaints. Furthermore, Boas was able to bring others to a similar belief. One thing that Boas was careful to avoid in making any statements was generalities. He wanted to avoid the use of inductive reasoning because he did not think it was ever possible to know everything about a society. Inductive reasoning was, however, better than its counterpart, deductive reasoning. Deductive reasoning allowed someone who new a couple particulars to make a finer point or even worse, some generalizations that would not necessarily be found following that line of thinking. Along these lines, Boas felt strongly against the idea that race had an influence on human behavior. He did not think that simply because a person has certain racial genes in his or her body they will behave a certain way. Boas made a point on focusing on linguistics as well, and his work in this field was quite remarkable. A large part of this theory was the empirical knowledge gained not from reading books but rather from getting information from a series of field subjects. One of Boas’ strongest points is to get his audience to rethink their position on what they knew already. Boas knew that the popularity of the single-line evolutionary process was high, but he recognized it as not being a fair representation of the way cultures developed. Boas also deserves credit for attacking the poor methodology of the studies that were being done around him. He felt that scientists at the time were simply being lazy if they did not get involved in the study from a grassroots beginning. He wanted anthropol

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