Pub. date: 2006 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412952453 | Print ISBN: 9780761930297 | Online ISBN: 9781412952453| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Franz Boas (1858–1942)
Stewart B. Whitney
Franz Boas, considered the “father of American anthropology” and the architect of its contemporary structure, helped revolutionize the consciousness and conscience of humanity by fighting against 19th-century colonial Anglo-American ethnocentrism and racism and championing 20th-century cultural relativism, tolerance, and multicultural awareness. Boas stands among the last of the great Renaissance minds. Born in Minden, Westphalia, Germany on July 9, 1858, the son of Meier Boas (a merchant) and Sophie Meyer (a kindergarten founder), he was raised in idealistic German Judaism with liberal and secular values, internalizing democratic and pluralistic beliefs and a strong disdain for anti-Semitism. Challenged by poor health as a child, he embraced books and nature while developing a strong antagonism toward authority. Following education at school and the Gymnasium in Minden, he studied natural history (physics, mathematics, and geography) at the Universities of Heidelberg and Bonn, before studying physics with Gustav Karsten at the University of Kiel, ...