Kroeber, A.L. (Alfred Louis), 1876-1960

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1876-06-11
Death 1960-10-05
US
North American Indian languages, English

Biographical notes:

Anthropologist.

From the description of Anthropology : mss., 1948. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 85185772

Alfred L. Kroeber was an anthropologist. He taught anthropology at the University of California, 1901-1946, and was curator, 1908-1925, and director, 1925-1946, of the University's anthropological museum.

From the guide to the Yana vocabulary and grammatical notes, 1911-1912, 1911-1912, (American Philosophical Society)

Faculty member, Anthropology Department, University of of California, Berkeley.

From the description of A.L. Kroeber papers, 1869-1972. (University of California, Berkeley). WorldCat record id: 702164397

Anthropologist, University of California, Berkeley: best known for his work on native peoples of California and the American West. Also, father of author Ursula K. Le Guin.

From the description of A.L. Kroeber family photographs [graphic]. ca. 1870-1969. (University of California, Berkeley). WorldCat record id: 77577571

Alfred Louis Kroeber (1876-1960) was a renowned professor of anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, and a keen intellect who played a major role in shaping the study of anthropology into the academic discipline that it is today. His magnetic personality and generous spirit endeared him to his students and colleagues. Kroeber's voluminous scholarly output as well as his lengthy and influential teaching career earned him a place among the most respected anthropologists of all time.

From the description of A.L. Kroeber papers, 1869-1972. (University of California, Berkeley). WorldCat record id: 123458736

From the description of A.L. Kroeber papers, 1869-1972. (University of California, Berkeley). WorldCat record id: 743385392

Alfred Louis Kroeber was a pioneering scholar who, in the words of a colleague, "played a major role in developing American anthropology from the rather random endeavors of amateurs and self-trained men to a coherent, scientific and academic discipline." One of the first half-dozen people in the U.S. to receive PhDs in anthropology, Kroeber went on to shape the anthropology department at the University of California-Berkeley. Kroeber, who was born in 1876 in Hoboken, NJ, was educated at home in his younger years, attended private high schools and received bachelor's and master's degrees in English and literature from Columbia University before discovering that his life's interest lay in the young field of anthropology. He is most famous for ethnographic investigations in California and the Great Plains, for archaeological studies in Mexico and Peru, for linguistic research and for breaking ground in the study of the nature of culture. After serving in numerous posts at the University of California, he retired in 1946, going on to serve as a guest lecturer and scholar at many other universities. He died in 1960.

Ruth Murray Underhill was an anthropologist and author whose studies of the Indians of the southwest U.S. brought her national recognition. Born in 1884 in Ossining-on-the-Hudson, New York, Underhill, herself a descendent of Native Americans, studied at private schools and received a bachelor's degree in English from Vassar College in 1905. She worked in various positions with charitable organizations in the United States and Europe, along the way acquiring fluency in French, German, Spanish, Italian and Papago (the tongue of the Indians of southern Arizona). Eventually, after discovering that her real intellectual passion lay in the study of human beings and their cultures, she decided to study for a doctorate in anthropology at Columbia University. She was awarded that degree in 1935. Before earning her doctorate, she worked for the U.S. government as a soil conservationist. Beginning in 1934, she worked as a consultant in anthropology for the U.S. Indian Service, the educational division of the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs. In that capacity, she traveled to many Indian reservations and spent months at a time among their peoples. In 1948, weary of constant travel, she left government service to become Professor of Anthropology at the University of Denver. She retired from that post in 1952 but continued to serve as professor emeritus and to travel the world and write. Among the early publications that brought Underhill to the attention of the general public as well as the scholarly community were "Autobiography of a Papago Woman," printed in the Memoirs of the American Anthropological Association in 1936, and First Penthouse Dwellers in America, a book published in 1938. Alfred Kroeber, pioneering anthropologist at the University of California, wrote to congratulate Underhill on the former work. Numerous other publications would follow throughout Underhill₂s career, garnering her praise from critics, who called her "a sound scientist, possessed of a genuine literary gift" and credited her with "a scholarly and humane intellect which is obviously saturated with Indian facts and lore". In 1982, Joyce Herold, Curator Emeritus of Anthropology at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, called Underhill "one of America's most distinguished humanist scholars." Underhill died in August 1984.

From the description of Alfred L. Kroeber letters 1936-1951. (Denver Museum of Nature & Science). WorldCat record id: 68571193

Biographical Sketch

Alfred Louis Kroeber was a renowned professor of anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, and a keen intellect who played a major role in shaping the study of anthropology into the academic discipline that it is today. His magnetic personality and generous spirit endeared him to his students and colleagues. Kroeber's voluminous scholarly output as well as his lengthy and influential teaching career earned him a place among the most respected anthropologists of all time.

A. L. Kroeber was born in Hoboken, New Jersey, on June 11, 1876, to Florence Martin Kroeber, a German immigrant, and his wife Johanna Muller, a first generation German-American. The family moved to New York City when Alfred was very young. He was schooled by tutors and attended private secondary schools there and in Connecticut, beginning his studies at Columbia University at the age of 16. He displayed a wide range of interests, from natural history to languages to aesthetics. He was an independent thinker, and his strong work ethic and intense desire to learn helped him to overcome his shyness.

Kroeber entered Columbia as an English major, and received his bachelor's degree in 1896, and his master's degree in 1897. His interest in anthropology was sparked while taking anthropology, linguistics, and statistics classes taught by Franz Boas. He spent two summers in Wyoming, doing field work with the Arapaho, and visiting the Ute, Shoshone, Bannock, and Atsina (Gros Ventre) peoples. Kroeber was awarded his doctorate in anthropology in 1901. His dissertation, published in the American Anthropologist, was entitled Decorative Symbolism of the Arapaho.

In 1900, Kroeber accepted a job as curator of Indian artifacts for the Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, and made collecting trips to the Klamath River region. The Academy job was a temporary one, but during his first stay in the Western United States, he met the President of the University of California, Benjamin Ide Wheeler. In 1901, Wheeler offered Kroeber a position in the new department of anthropology, and he moved west permanently. The department was entirely funded by Phoebe A. Hearst for the first seven years of its existence, as was the University of California Museum of Anthropology. Frederic Ward Putnam, curator of the Peabody Museum at Harvard University, was named head of the advisory committee for the department and later, between 1903 and 1909, professor of anthropology and director of its museum. Since Putnam meanwhile retained his position at Harvard, Kroeber in effect became the day-to-day administrator of the Berkeley department and museum, then located in San Francisco. After 1909, Kroeber headed both the museum and the department.

Kroeber was promoted to full professor in 1919, and taught at Berkeley for 45 years until his retirement in 1946, after which he accepted visiting professorships at Columbia, Harvard, Brandeis, and Yale Universities, as well as the University of Chicago. During all his years of teaching he worked to establish anthropology as a distinct discipline, with its own scientific method and intellectual rigor. During World War II, he and one of his former students, Samuel A. Barrett, co-directed the Army Specialized Training Program, an intensive course in East and Southeast Asian Languages, on the Berkeley campus.

Kroeber's research interests encompassed all of the disciplines which in the early years of the century fell under the rubric of anthropology, from ethnology to physical anthropology, from folklore to archaeology to linguistics. His primary interest was in ethnography, and he conducted extensive research on numerous native California groups, some of which was published in the ground-breaking Handbook of the Indians of California (1925). Other interests included Mexican and Peruvian archaeology, ethnography and ethnogeography of California and the Southwestern United States, linguistics, culture area studies, social organization, kinship, genetics, and psychotherapy.

The authority with which he discussed anthropological issues in his books, articles, reviews, and lectures, and his congenial nature, won him the respect of his peers and students. He was a founding member of such organizations as the American Anthropological Association and the Society for American Archaeology, and a member of the American Folklore Society, the National Academy of Sciences, the Linguistic Society of America, and the Institute of Andean Research. Kroeber was also a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He received the Huxley Medal from the Royal Anthropological Institute in London in 1945, and the Viking Medal from the Wenner-Gren Foundation in 1946. He was awarded honorary doctoral degrees from Harvard, Yale, and Columbia Universities, and the Universities of California and Chicago. In 1959, the Regents of the University of California commemorated his great contributions to the university by naming the new anthropology and art building Kroeber Hall.

Alfred Kroeber was as dedicated to his family as he was to his research and teaching. He married Henriette Rothschild in 1906, who she died of tuberculosis in 1913. In 1926, Kroeber married one of his graduate students, Theodora Kracaw Brown. They raised four children, Clifton and Theodore (Theodora's sons from a previous marriage), Karl, and Ursula.

Kroeber died of a heart attack on October 5, 1960, while in Paris on his way home from the Anthropological Horizons conference, held at Burg Wartenstein, Austria. His career spanned the growth of anthropology from a "rather random [endeavor] of amateurs and self-trained men to a coherent, scientific, and academic discipline," and Alfred L. Kroeber will continue to be remembered for his significant role in bringing about that change.

REFERENCES:

Beals, Ralph L. "Kroeber, Alfred L." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, 8, 1968-1969, pp. 454-463.

Heizer, Robert F., G. M. Foster, and T. D. McCown. "Alfred Louis Kroeber, 1876-1960, Professor of Anthropology, Emeritus," In Memoriam, Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1962.

Hymes, Dell. "Alfred Louis Kroeber," Language, 37, 1961, pp. 1-28.

Kroeber, Theodora. Alfred L. Kroeber, A Personal Configuration. Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1970.

Rowe, John Howland. "A. L. Kroeber," The Teocentli, 25, November, 1961, pp. 1-3.

Rowe, John Howland. "Alfred Louis Kroeber, 1876-1960," American Antiquity, 27, 1962, pp. 395-415.

Steward, Julian H. Alfred Kroeber, New York: Columbia University Press, 1973.

Steward, Julian H. "Alfred Louis Kroeber, 1876-1960," American Anthropologist, 63, 1961, pp. 1038-1060.

Steward, Julian H. "Alfred Louis Kroeber, 1876-1960: A Biographical Memoir," Biographical Memoirs, Vol. XXXVI, National Academy of Sciences of the United States. New York: Columbia University Press, 1962.

From the guide to the A. L. Kroeber Papers, 1869-1972, (The Bancroft Library)

Alfred Louis Kroeber was a pioneering scholar who, in the words of a colleague, "played a major role in developing American anthropology from the rather random endeavors of amateurs and self-trained men to a coherent, scientific and academic discipline." One of the first half-dozen people in the U.S. to receive PhDs in anthropology, Kroeber went on to shape the anthropology department at the University of California-Berkeley.

Kroeber, who was born in 1876 in Hoboken, NJ, was educated at home in his younger years, attended private high schools and received bachelor's and master's degrees in English and literature from Columbia University before discovering that his life's interest lay in the young field of anthropology. He is most famous for ethnographic investigations in California and the Great Plains, for archaeological studies in Mexico and Peru, for linguistic research and for breaking ground in the study of the nature of culture. After serving in numerous posts at the University of California, he retired in 1946, going on to serve as a guest lecturer and scholar at many other universities. He died in 1960.

Ruth Murray Underhill was an anthropologist and author whose studies of the Indians of the southwest U.S. brought her national recognition.

Born in 1884 in Ossining-on-the-Hudson, New York, Underhill, herself a descendent of Native Americans, studied at private schools and received a bachelor's degree in English from Vassar College in 1905. She worked in various positions with charitable organizations in the United States and Europe, along the way acquiring fluency in French, German, Spanish, Italian and Papago (the tongue of the Indians of southern Arizona). Eventually, after discovering that her real intellectual passion lay in the study of human beings and their cultures, she decided to study for a doctorate in anthropology at Columbia University. She was awarded that degree in 1935.

Before earning her doctorate, she worked for the U.S. government as a soil conservationist. Beginning in 1934, she worked as a consultant in anthropology for the U.S. Indian Service, the educational division of the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs. In that capacity, she traveled to many Indian reservations and spent months at a time among their peoples. In 1948, weary of constant travel, she left government service to become professor of anthropology at the University of Denver. She retired from that post in 1952 but continued to serve as professor emeritus and to travel the world and write.

Among the early publications that brought Underhill to the attention of the general public as well as the scholarly community were "Autobiography of a Papago Woman," printed in the Memoirs of the American Anthropological Association in 1936, and First Penthouse Dwellers in America, a book published in 1938. Alfred Kroeber, pioneering anthropologist at the University of California, wrote to congratulate Underhill on the former work.

Numerous other publications would follow throughout Underhill???s career, garnering her praise from critics, who called her "a sound scientist, possessed of a genuine literary gift" and credited her with "a scholarly and humane intellect which is obviously saturated with Indian facts and lore." In 1982, Joyce Herold, Curator Emeritus of Anthropology at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, called Underhill "one of American???s most distinguished humanist scholars."

Underhill died in August 1984.

From the guide to the Alfred L. Kroeber letters, 1936-1951, (Denver Museum of Nature & Science, )

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Subjects:

  • Zuni Indians
  • Yokuts Indians
  • Yana language
  • Anthropology
  • Anthropological linguistics--America
  • Mohave Indians
  • Indians of North America--Languages
  • Hupa Indians
  • Indians of North America
  • Wiyot Indians
  • Indians of North America--Land tenure
  • Anthropology--History
  • Karok Indians
  • Yurok Indians
  • Yokuts language
  • Anthropologists--United States
  • Chilula Indians
  • Anthropologists
  • Yuma language
  • Anthropologists--Photographs
  • Exhibition buildings--Photographs
  • Yaqui language
  • Anthropologists--Correspondence

Occupations:

  • Anthropologists

Places:

  • United States (as recorded)
  • Mesa Verde National Park (Colo.) (as recorded)
  • California, Northern (as recorded)
  • Telluride (Colo.) (as recorded)
  • California (as recorded)
  • California (as recorded)
  • Colorado (as recorded)
  • California (as recorded)
  • Denver (Colo.) (as recorded)
  • California (as recorded)
  • California (as recorded)
  • California (as recorded)
  • California--Berkeley (as recorded)