Heizer, Robert F. (Robert Fleming), 1915-1979

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1915-07-13
Death 1979-07-18
Americans
English

Biographical notes:

Robert F. Heizer was born in Colorado. He received his B.A. (1936) and Ph. D. (1941) degrees from the University of California at Berkeley. He taught in Oregon (1940-1941) and California (1945-1976). Heizer was active in archaeological and anthropological fieldwork in Alaska with Dr. Ales Hrdlicka (1934-1935), and at numerous other sites in the United States and other countries. He organized and directed the University of California Archaeological Survey (1948-1960) and was coordinator of the Archaeological Research Facility (1960-1976).

From the description of Papers, 1949-1956. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 42927668

Robert F. Heizer was born in Colorado on July 13, 1915. He attended Sacramento Junior College from 1932-1934, and went on to receive his A.B. degree (1936) and his Ph. D. in Anthropology (1941), both from the University of California at Berkeley. His academic career began with a one-year appointment at the University of Oregon (1940-1941) but was followed by a job as a marine pipe fitter in California during World War II. Heizer then spent one year teaching at the University of California at Los Angeles (1945-1946) before becoming an assistant professor at the University of California at Berkeley in 1946. In 1948 he was promoted to associate professor and in 1952 attained the rank of professor. He remained with the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, until his retirement in 1976.

From the description of Robert F. Heizer papers, 1957-1991. (University of Texas at San Antonio). WorldCat record id: 57195530

Robert Fleming Heizer (1915-1979) was a highly influential professor of anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, and a recognized expert on Native American and Mesoamerican archaeology.

From the description of Robert Fleming Heizer papers, ca. 1851-1980. (University of California, Berkeley). WorldCat record id: 84655340

Robert F. Heizer was born in Colorado on July 13, 1915. He attended Sacramento Junior College from 1932-1934, and went on to receive his A.B. degree (1936) and his Ph.D. in Anthropology (1941), both from the University of California at Berkeley. His academic career began with a one-year appointment at the University of Oregon (1940-1941) but was followed by a job as a marine pipe fitter in California during World War II. Heizer then spent one year teaching at the University of California at Los Angeles (1945-1946) before becoming an assistant professor at the University of California at Berkeley in 1946. In 1948 he was promoted to associate professor and in 1952 attained the rank of professor. He remained with the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, until his retirement in 1976.

A member of a number of archaeological and anthropological societies, Heizer also organized and directed the University of California Archaeological Survey from 1948 until it dissolved in to 1960. He was also coordinator of its successor, the Archaeological Research Facility, from 1960 until his retirement in 1976.

In addition to teaching and administering, Heizer wrote and published extensively, mostly between 1937 and 1949. He did fieldwork in California, Nevada, Mesoamerica, South America and Egypt. Heizer performed landmark studies in Olmec Archaeology, particularly at the site of La Venta, beginning in 1953. He received numerous honors and awards throughout his lifetime. Dr. Robert F. Heizer died July 18, 1979.

From the guide to the Robert F. Heizer Papers MS 119., 1957-1991, (University of Texas at San Antonio Libraries Special Collections)

Biographical Sketch

Robert Fleming Heizer (1915-1979) was a highly influential professor of anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, and a recognized expert on Native American and Mesoamerican archaeology. He conducted extensive research on the native peoples of California, Nevada, Alaska, Mexico, and Guatemala, and published numerous books, articles, and reports on his findings. Heizer's assiduous scholarship won him fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Geographic Society, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, an honorary Doctor of Science degree from the University of Nevada, and election to the National Academy of Sciences. Although he was known to be demanding, competitive, and at times controversial, his students and colleagues appreciated the generosity with which he shared his knowledge and his dedication to the rigorous analysis of archaeological data.

Heizer was born in Denver, Colorado on July 13, 1915, to Martha Madden and Ott Fleming Heizer. When Robert was a young boy, the family moved from Denver to Lovelock, Nevada, where Heizer's childhood explorations and avid reading kindled his interest in Native American culture. He graduated from Lovelock High School, and was determined to earn a degree in anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley. Before attending Berkeley, Heizer enrolled in Sacramento Junior College, where the college president, Jeremiah Beverley Lillard, fostered Heizer's interest in archaeological excavation.

Heizer transferred to U.C. Berkeley in 1934, and he received his bachelor's degree in anthropology in 1936. He continued his graduate studies at Berkeley under Alfred L. Kroeber. When the time came for Heizer to write his dissertation, Kroeber discouraged him from writing on a purely archaeological subject. Heizer completed his dissertation on aboriginal whaling (instead of Central Valley archaeology, as he had intended), and received his doctorate in 1941.

After teaching for a year at the University of Oregon, working as a pipefitter during World War II, and teaching for a year at University of California, Los Angeles, Heizer returned to Berkeley in 1946 as an assistant professor. He was promoted to professor in 1952, and continued to teach, write, conduct research, and direct field work with students until the end of his life. One of Heizer's most notable roles at Berkeley was as the founder and director of the University of California Archaeological Survey. Established in 1948, the Survey, which specialized in the archaeology of California and Nevada, was a pioneer example of a university-affiliated archaeological program in the United States. Spurred by Heizer's belief that field work, laboratory projects, or any type of archaeological endeavor lacked value unless the results were published, the Survey (and its successor, the Archaeological Research Facility) made a priority of disseminating the findings of the work conducted under its auspices.

Heizer's research had a profound impact in archaeological and anthropological circles. In all, nearly 500 publications bear Heizer's name, either as the sole author, editor, or collaborator. His research interests ran the gamut: from Great Basin and California prehistory to human coprolite analysis; from Indian land claims cases to rock art; from historical archaeology to ancient methods of heavy transport. Heizer's investigations were not limited to the continental United States. He conducted excavations in the Aleutian Islands (with Aleŝ Hrdliĉka), La Venta and Cuicuilco, Mexico, Abaj Takalik, Guatemala, and Egypt.

Heizer's myriad accomplishments included editing both the papers and photographs pertaining to North American Indians of C. Hart Merriam, and revising the California volume of the Smithsonian Institution's Handbook of North American Indians. He participated in the quest for Sir Francis Drake's landing place on the Northern California coast, and published an account of the hunt entitled Elizabethan California. He also directed the excavation and authentication of the remains of Juan Bautista de Anza, the founder of San Francisco.

As a teacher, Heizer's contribution was perhaps greatest in his guidance of the research of younger scholars. Students working with him learned to investigate new approaches to methodology and theory. Heizer's knowledge of the archaeological literature was au courant and encyclopedic. He utilized the latest technology for the radiocarbon dating of artifacts. Heizer's students and colleagues were strongly influenced by his tremendous curiosity, energy and enthusiasm. They respected his opinions, which were delivered in a frank, and at times caustic, manner.

Robert and Nancy Jenkins Heizer had three children, Michael, Stephen, and Sydney. The Heizers were married for 35 years before they divorced in 1975. Heizer retired in 1977, and was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 1978. He died on July 18, 1979, at the age of 64.

References Baumhoff, Martin A. Obituaries, American Anthropologist, vol. 82, December, 1980, pp. 843- 847. Clark, J. Desmond, George M. Foster, and David G. Mandelbaum. In Memoriam, University of California, September, 1980, pp. 114-115. Hester, Thomas R. Obituaries, American Antiquity, vol. 47, no. 1, pp. 99-107. Obituary, New York Times, July 20, 1979.

From the guide to the Robert Fleming Heizer Papers, ca. 1851-1980, (The Bancroft Library)

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Subjects:

  • Archaeologists--California
  • Transportation--History
  • Olmec sculpture
  • College teachers--California--Berkeley
  • Megalithic monuments
  • Antiquities, Prehistoric
  • Rock paintings
  • Olmec art
  • Petroglyphs
  • Archaeology
  • Radiocarbon dating
  • Anthropology--Research
  • Anthropologists--United States
  • Writers
  • Anthropology
  • Eskimos--Antiquities
  • Indians of North America--Maps, Manuscript
  • Indians of North America--Land tenure
  • Petrology
  • Education/Educators
  • Indians of North America--Maps

Occupations:

  • Collector

Places:

  • California (as recorded)
  • Coloma (Calif.) (as recorded)
  • Kodiak Island (Alaska) (as recorded)
  • Alaska (as recorded)
  • California (as recorded)
  • Berkeley (Calif.) (as recorded)
  • California--Berkeley (as recorded)
  • Sutter's Mill (Coloma, Calif.) (as recorded)