(1858-1942) German-born US anthropologist. He stressed the need to study “four fields”—ethnology, linguistics, physical anthropology, and archeology—before generalizations might be made about any one culture or comparisons about any number of cultures.
Boas spent much of his later career battling against unscientific theories of racial inequality.
Boas began his career in geography but switched to ethnology when he joined a German scientific expedition to the Arctic 1883. In 1886 he traveled to the Pacific Northwest to study the culture of the Kwakiutl Indian people, including their language. Joining the faculty of Clark University 1888, Boas became one of America's first academic anthropologists. In 1896 he was appointed professor at Columbia University, where he trained the first generation of US anthropologists, such as Alfred Kroeber and Margaret Mead. From 1901 to 1905 he was also curator of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.