Essay about Father Franz Boas--Father of American Anthropology

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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
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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
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