Lowie, Robert Harry, 1883-1957

Alternative names
Birth 1883-06-12
Death 1957-09-21
Siouan languages, Central American Indian languages, German, Dakota, North American Indian languages, Chipewyan; Dene Suline, Washo, English

Biographical notes:

Robert H. Lowie was a noted anthropologist, professor of anthropology, and specialist on the Crow Indians. He moved from Vienna to New York in 1893, and later received his doctorate from Columbia University, studying with Franz Boas. After doing curatorial and field work for the American Museum of Natural History, in 1921 he joined the anthropology faculty at U.C. Berkeley, where he taught until his retirement in 1950. Lowie published hundreds of articles, reviews, and monographs in English, German, and Crow. He died in Berkeley in 1957.

From the description of Robert Harry Lowie papers, 1872-1968. (University of California, Berkeley). WorldCat record id: 83822506


Lowie was a Curator in the Dept. of Anthropology, American Museum of Natural History, 1906-1922. He made extensive ethnographic studies of North American Indians.

From the description of Papers, 1907-1916. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 155511799


Robert H. Lowie, a noted anthropologist, professor of anthropology, and specialist on the Crow Indians, was born in Vienna on June 12, 1883. Lowie, his mother, and his sister joined his father in New York City in 1893. He attended New York public schools, and earned his bachelor's degree from the College of the City of New York in 1901. Lowie taught in the New York public schools from 1901 to 1904. He studied under Franz Boas, and received his doctorate from Columbia University in 1908. His dissertation was a study of American Indian folklore, entitled The Test Theme in North American Literature.

Lowie began his career as assistant curator, and later associate curator, at the American Museum of Natural History. Under the direction of Clark Wissler, he did field work among the Chipewyan, Crow, Hidatsa, Hopi, Kiowa, and Washo, among other tribes. Alfred L. Kroeber offered Lowie a position as a visiting associate professor in the Anthropology Department at the University of California, Berkeley, and Lowie returned on a permanent basis in 1921. He attained the rank of full professor in 1925, often alternated with Kroeber as chairman of the department, and taught at Berkeley until his retirement in 1950.

Lowie published several hundred articles and reviews, in German and in English, and many books, including Culture and Ethnology (1917); Primitive Society (1920); Primitive Religion (1924); The Origin of the State (1927); Are We Civilized? (1929); Introduction to Cultural Anthropology (1934 and 1940); The Crow Indians (1935); History of Ethnological Theory (1937); Social Organization (1948); Toward Understanding Germany (1954); Indians of the Plains; and Crow Texts (1960).

He was active in many organizations. He was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences, secretary and later honorary life member of the New York Academy of Sciences, president of the American Folklore Society and of the American Ethnological Society, editor of the American Anthropologist and of Current Anthropological Literature, and delegate to the Third International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences, held in Brussels in 1948.

Lowie was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree by the University of Chicago in 1941. He received the Viking Medal in Ethnography in 1948, and the Thomas Henry Huxley Medal from the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland in the same year. He was appointed as Faculty Research Lecturer at U.C. Berkeley in 1949.

After his retirement in 1950, he lectured and did field work in Europe, continued to teach a course in the history and theory of anthropology at U.C. Berkeley, and was a visiting professor at the University of Washington, Columbia, and Harvard Universities.

Robert H. Lowie died at his home in Berkeley on September 21, 1957.

From the guide to the Robert Harry Lowie Papers, 1872-1968, (The Bancroft Library.)


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  • Assininboin Indians
  • Chipewyan Indians
  • Shoshonean Indians
  • Art, Primitive
  • Ethnological museums and collections
  • Mandan Indians
  • Wahpetan dialect
  • Paiute Indians
  • Hopi Indians
  • Ute Indians
  • Kiowa language
  • Crow Indians
  • Indians of North America--Rites and ceremonies
  • Washoe Indians
  • Kiowa Indians
  • Cocopa language
  • Indians of North America--Art
  • Washoe language
  • Anthropological linguistics
  • Northern Paiute language
  • Indians of North America
  • Assiniboine dialect
  • Chipewyan language
  • Hidatsa Indians
  • Comanche Indians
  • Indians of North America--Social life and customs
  • Santee Indians
  • Crow language
  • Ethnology
  • Siouan languages
  • Indians of North America--Languages
  • Arikara Indians
  • Hopi language
  • Hidatsa language
  • Dakota language


  • Ethnologists
  • Museum curators


  • North America (as recorded)
  • New York (State)--New York (as recorded)
  • Great Plains (as recorded)
  • West (U.S.) (as recorded)