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Franz Boas
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Scientist
    (July 9, 1858-December 21, 1942)
    Born in Minden, Germany
    Anthropologist
    Curator of the American Museum of Natural History (1896-1905)
    Headed the anthropology department at Columbia University (1899-1937)
    Wrote 'The Mind of Primitive Man' (1911), 'Primitive Art' (1927) and 'Race, Language and Culture' (1940)
    Called 'the father of modern anthropology'
    He claimed different cultures should not be considered more or less advanced, but that did not stop him from referring to 'primitive man' in his books.
    He asked Robert E. Peary to bring six Inuit from Greenland to New York City for study (1897); since the Inuit had no exposure to European diseases, four quickly developed tuberculosis and died.
    His political outspokenness got him censured by the American Anthropological Association (1920).
    While studying the Inuit of Baffin Island, he wrote, 'I often ask myself what advantages our 'good society' possesses over that of the 'savages' and find, the more I see of their customs, that we have no right to look down upon them.'
    He spoke out against the 'scientific racism' of the day.
    He helped scientists fleeing Nazi Germany find jobs in America.
    His son Henry died in a railway accident (1925) and his wife Marie was killed by a hit and run driver (1929).
    Thomas Gossett, author of 'Race: The History of an Idea in America,' wrote, 'It is possible that Boas did more to combat race prejudice than any other person in history.'

Credit: C. Fishel


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