Alfred Louis Kroeber

Alfred Louis Kroeber

American anthropologist
Date of Birth: 11.06.1876
Country: USA

  1. Alfred Louis Kroeber: Biography of an American Anthropologist
  2. Early Life and Education
  3. Professional Career
  4. Legacy and Contributions
  5. Personal Life and Family

Alfred Louis Kroeber: Biography of an American Anthropologist

Early Life and Education

Alfred Louis Kroeber was born into a family of German immigrants. At the age of 16, he enrolled in Columbia College, where he obtained a Bachelor's degree in English Language in 1896 and a Master's degree in Humanities with a focus on Romantic Drama in 1897. His doctoral dissertation, completed in 1901 under the supervision of Franz Boas at Columbia University, explored the decorative symbolism of the Arapaho tribe. This dissertation marked the first doctoral degree in anthropology awarded by Columbia University.

Professional Career

Throughout most of his career, Kroeber worked in California, primarily at the University of California, Berkeley. He held positions as a professor of anthropology and director of the Museum of Anthropology, which is now named after Phoebe A. Hearst. In addition to his anthropological research, Kroeber also engaged in archaeology, conducting excavations in New Mexico, Mexico, and Peru.

Together with his students, Kroeber collected cultural data on Native American tribes along the western coast of the United States, and their findings were published in the book Handbook of Indians of California (1925). Kroeber's contributions to the field of anthropology include the concepts of "culture area" and "culture configuration," which he outlined in his work Cultural and Natural Areas of Native North America (1939).

Legacy and Contributions

Kroeber's influence on the field of anthropology was so significant that many of his contemporaries began sporting beards and mustaches like his. His socio-philosophical views gained widespread recognition, earning him the nickname "the dean of American anthropologists" during his lifetime. Kroeber, along with Roland Dixon, conducted extensive work on the genetic classification of Native American languages in North America, laying the foundation for the Penutian and Hokan hypotheses.

Kroeber is also known for his collaboration with Ishi, who is considered by some to be the last speaker of the Yahi language. His second wife, Theodora Kroeber, wrote a biography of Ishi titled "Ishi in Two Worlds," which was later adapted into the film "The Last of His Tribe" (1992), with John Voight playing the role of Kroeber. Kroeber's textbook, "Anthropology" (1923, 1948), was widely used in American universities and became a bestseller at Columbia University in the late 1940s.

Personal Life and Family

Kroeber had two children from his second marriage to Theodora Kroeber: scientist Karl Kroeber and science fiction writer Ursula Le Guin. He also adopted Theodora's two children from her previous marriage, Ted and Clifton, the latter of whom became a renowned historian. Recently, in 2003, Clifton and Karl co-authored a book about Ishi called "Ishi in Three Centuries," which includes writings by Native American authors.