Evans, Bergen, 1904-

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Professor of English, Northwestern University, 1932-1974; short-story writer; radio/tv game show panelist; faculty member, Famous Writers' School; co-author, The Dictionary of Contemporary American Usage (1957).

From the description of Bergan Evans Papers, 1921-1978. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122605099

Bergen Baldwin Evans was born on September 19, 1904 in Franklin, Ohio, the third child of Rice Kemper and Louise Cass Evans' six children. Evans joined the faculty of Northwestern University as in the department of English in 1932. He was an incredibly popular instructor, and remained at Northwestern until his retirement in 1974. In addition to his career as an English scholar, Evans was an author and was involved with many television and radio programs. He died in 1978.

In 1909 Evans' father, a fourth generation doctor, gave up his practice to accept a clerkship in the consular service in Sheffield, England. The family lived there until 1915 when Rice Evans' salary could no longer support his large family. That and the outbreak of World War I forced him to send his children back to America to live with an aunt in Franklin, Ohio.

Bergen Evans was educated in both English and American schools and entered Miami University in Oxford, Ohio at the age of fifteen. Despite nearly being dismissed after his first year as a result of his unorthodox study habits, Evans graduated in 1924 and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. After earning an M.A. from Harvard in 1925 he returned to Miami University and taught English from 1925 to 1928. Thereafter he attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar from 1929 to 1931, receiving a B.Litt. degree in 1930. He returned to Harvard where he received a Ph.D. in English Philology in 1932. The subject of his dissertation was Samuel Johnson's career as a biographer.

In September of 1932, Evans began his teaching career at Northwestern as an Instructor in English. He remained at Northwestern until his retirement in 1974, being promoted to Assistant Professor in 1936, Associate Professor in 1939, and Professor in 1944. His courses, in particular, Introduction to Literature, became extremely popular, enrolling more students than any other course offered at the university.

Evans simultaneously pursued a second career as an author, publishing short stories in national magazines. As a result he won the Scribner Prize in 1939. As a feature writer for the American Mercury from 1947 to 1950 he contributed a column entitled “The Skeptics Corner.” Evans also published a number of books, with the first coming about by chance. Teaching in the university's Evening Division he became acquainted with a student, Herman Bishop, a mechanic, with whom he wrote Your Car is Made to Last, a car repair book for the layman. Evans second book, The Psychiatry of Robert Burton, written with G.J. Mohr in 1944, analyzed Burton's grasp of modern psychology while writing in the 17th century. His first book to gain popular attention was The Natural History of Nonsense (1946). He next published The Spoor of Spooks and Other Nonsense (1954) as a result of his long-standing interest in myths and superstitions.

Evans' major contribution to scholarship was The Dictionary of Contemporary American Usage, which he authored in collaboration with his sister, Cornelia Evans Goodhue, in 1957. A vocabulary-building book containing chapters on British-American vocabulary, Word-A-Day, was released in 1963. Evans also wrote two reference works: Dictionary of Quotations (1968) and Dictionary of Mythology (1970). Evans also edited anthologies and literary works, including two relating to Samuel Johnson, and wrote essays, book introductions, and textbook chapters, as well as numerous magazine and newspaper articles, and delivered numerous lectures.

In addition to his writing, Evans appeared on television and radio. After appearing briefly in a television program entitled “Majority Rules,” Evans became a nationally known personality through “Down You Go,” a program based on the parlor game “hang the butcher.” The program originated in Chicago and ran from 1951 - 1956 and was revived from 1961 - 1963.

Evans was also involved in several other television and radio panel shows through the 1950s and early 1960s, including “Of Many Things,” “Superghost,” “English for Americans,” “Inquiry,” “The Last Word,” “Words in the News,” and “Conversation.” For most of these programs Evans commuted to New York every weekend.

Although he did not appear on the program, beginning in 1955 Evans prepared questions used on the television game show “The $64,000 Question.” In 1959 the producers of the show were accused of coaching contestants, including giving them the questions in advance. Illinois State Representative Peter F. Mack, Jr. accused Evans of having been a part of the scandal and called for his resignation from Northwestern. Evans emerged from the scandal unscathed, having received the full support of his students and Northwestern president J. Roscoe Miller.

Evans retired from teaching in May of 1974, having taught three years past the University's mandatory retirement age of 68. He died on February 4, 1978.

Evans married Jean Whinery on August 5, 1939. They had two sons, Derek and Scott. Among the many honors Evans received during his long and productive career were the 1957 Peabody Award for outstanding public service in broadcasting, honorary degrees from Miami (Ohio) University in 1959 and Franklin and Marshall College and the Ohioana Career Medal in 1972.

From the guide to the Bergen Evans (1904-1978) Papers, 1921-1978, (Northwestern University Archives)

Ashley Montagu, born Israel Ehrenberg on June 28, 1905, was a British-American anthropologist, specializing in the areas of race and gender issues, as well as a prolific speaker and author, publishing over 50 books in his lifetime. The son of Jewish tailor Charles Ehrenberg and his wife, Mary Plot Ehrenberg, Montagu was born and raised in London's working class East End neighborhood. Although the reasoning behind his name change was never revealed, it may have been due to anti-Semitic prejudice faced by many East End Jews during his childhood, and Montagu might have felt the need to distance himself from his parents’ Russian and Polish backgrounds.

Montagu earned his undergraduate degree from University College London in psychology and anthropology. After studying anthropology at the London School of Economics under Bronislaw Malinowski, Montagu left England for the United States. He arrived at New York City in 1927 and began taking graduate classes at Columbia University. Montagu then traveled to Italy in 1928, where he took classes in ethnography and anthropology at the University of Florence. Upon his return to the United States in 1931, while working as an assistant professor of anthropology at New York University, Montagu married Marjorie Peakes. The couple would have two daughters, Audrey and Barbara, as well as a son, Geoffrey. In 1934 Montagu returned to Columbia University, culminating his postgraduate work at Columbia in 1936 with his dissertation, Coming into being among the Australian Aborigines: A study of the procreative beliefs of the native tribes of Australia, produced under the direction of Franz Boas and Ruth Benedict. Based largely on his dissertation, Montagu’s first book, Coming into Being among the Australian Aborigines, was published in 1937. After he completed his education, Montagu taught anatomy at Hahnemann Medical College in Philadelphia in 1938 and became an American citizen in 1940. It was during his time at Hahnemann that he began to produce work relating to race, resulting in his seminal work, Man's Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Race, published in 1942. The work controversially advanced the argument that race was a social construct imposed upon a complex biological substratum and demolished the arguments for inherent inequality between human populations. The influential nature of Man’s Most Dangerous Myth led to Montagu’s service on the 4th United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) task force, in 1949. The ten member UNESCO committee, composed of such world-renowned social scientists as Claude Levi-Strauss and E. Franklin Frazier, was created to collect information about the problem of race and to establish educational programs to disseminate its findings. The resultant document, authored by Montagu, the group’s rapporteur, was published as the “Statement on Race” in 1951. The Committee’s final statement on race asserted: 1)All mankind belong to the same species and that the differences between groups are few compared to all of the genetic similarities. 2)That Race designates a group with high frequency of physical characteristics or particular genetic trait and that these traits fluctuate or even disappear over time. 3)The way in which people are grouped does not reflect the capacity or character traits of a particular group. The differences between races are physical and have no correlation with other traits like intelligence.

Upon leaving Hahnemann Medical College in 1949, Montagu moved to Rutgers University, where he was a professor of anthropology and head of the department from 1949 to 1955. While at Rutgers, Montagu wrote perhaps his most famous work, The Natural Superiority of Women, published in 1953. Examining the differences between the sexes anthropologically, Montagu concluded that women were the superior sex because they possessed a better capability to survive both as individuals and in groups- talents necessary for an advancing society. Based on these conclusions, he suggested that women receive equal pay for equal work, a controversial stance at the time.

With his prolific writing skills to rely on financially, and facing strong backlash for his openly liberal views and anti-McCarthy public statements, Montagu accepted a forced retirement from Rutgers in 1955 at the age of 50. Though retired from academic life, he continued to lecture at such institutions as Harvard University, Princeton University, the University of Santa Barbara, and New York University. Settling in Princeton, New Jersey, Montagu’s work took up a more humanist element with Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin, his effort to encourage parents to take a more physical role in raising their children and especially to encourage mothers to breastfeed their babies. Published during that same year, Montagu’s book The Elephant Man: A Study in Human Dignity, a history of the life of disfigured Briton Joseph Merrick, inspired a Tony winning play and later a motion picture. He continued publishing through the 1980s, including The Nature of Human Aggression (1976) and Growing Young (1981), while making numerous and notable television appearances on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show as well as the Phil Donahue Show.

In his lifetime, Montagu received many major awards, among them the American Association of Humanists’ 1995 Man of the Year award, the Darwin Award from the American Association of Physical Anthropologist in 1994, and the Distinguished Achievement Award from the American Anthropological Association in 1987. Montagu maintained an active schedule of lecturing and gardening around his Princeton, New Jersey, home until he was hospitalized in March 1999; he died on November 26, 1999 from heart disease, at the age of ninety-four. He was survived by his wife of sixty-eight years, Marjorie, as well as his son and two daughters.

From the guide to the Ashley Montagu papers, 1927-1999, 1927-1999, (American Philosophical Society)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Paul Blanshard Papers, 1912-1979 Bentley Historical Library
creatorOf Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Records. : Series I., General Correspondence, 1922-1977 (bulk 1946-1966). Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
referencedIn Angoff, Charles, 1902-1979. Charles Angoff collection, 1927-1978. Boston University. School of Medicine
referencedIn Paul A. Freund papers Harvard Law School Library Langdell Hall Cambridge, MA 02138
creatorOf Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Records. Series VII., Other Department Files, 1916-1996 (bulk 1943-1969). Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
creatorOf Evans, Bergen, 1904-1978. Bergan Evans Papers, 1921-1978. Northwestern University
creatorOf Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Records. Series V., Editor Files, 1873-1984 (bulk 1960-1980). Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
creatorOf Bergen Evans (1904-1978) Papers, 1921-1978 Northwestern University Archives
creatorOf Ashley Montagu papers, 1927-1999, 1927-1999 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Lawrence E. Spivak Papers, 1917-1994, (bulk 1945-1983) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn John Mason Brown papers, 1922-1967. Houghton Library
referencedIn John Mason Brown papers, 1922-1967. Houghton Library
creatorOf Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Records. Series VI., Editorial Department Files, 1915-1984 (bulk 1948-1978). Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
creatorOf Malone, Edmond, 1741-1812. Copy of annotations in Edmond Malone's copy of Langbaine's Account of the English dramatick poets, 18th-19th century [manuscript], ca. 1940. Folger Shakespeare Library
referencedIn The Nation, records, 1879-1974 (inclusive), 1920-1955 (bulk). Houghton Library
referencedIn Poetry mss., 1954-2002 Lilly Library (Indiana University, Bloomington)
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
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correspondedWith Angoff, Charles, 1902-1979. person
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associatedWith Blanshard, Paul, 1892- person
associatedWith Boas, Franz, 1858-1942 person
associatedWith Briffault, Robert person
correspondedWith Brown, John Mason, 1900-1969 person
associatedWith Buhler, Charlotte, 1983-1974 person
associatedWith Carpenter, Edmund, 1922-2011 person
associatedWith Clark, Wilfrid E. Le Gros, (Wilfrid Edward Le Gros), 1895-1971 person
associatedWith Dobzhansky, Theodosius Grigorievich, 1900-1975 person
associatedWith Einstein, Albert, 1879-1955 person
associatedWith Eisler, Riane Tennenhaus person
associatedWith Elkin, A. P. (Adolphus Peter), 1891-1979 person
associatedWith Famous Writers School. corporateBody
associatedWith Freeman, Derek person
associatedWith Fromm, Erich, 1900-1980 person
associatedWith Goldstein, Marcus Solomon person
associatedWith Gould, Stephen Jay person
associatedWith Keith, Arthur, Sir, 1866-1955 person
associatedWith Kluckhohn, Clyde, 1905-1960 person
associatedWith La Barre, Weston, 1911-1996 person
associatedWith Malone, Edmond, 1741-1812. person
associatedWith Marx, Groucho, 1890-1977. person
associatedWith Matson, Floyd W. person
associatedWith McLuhan, Marshall, 1911-1980 person
associatedWith Meade, Margaret, 1901-1978 person
associatedWith Modern Poetry Association corporateBody
associatedWith Montagu, Ashley, 1905-1999. person
correspondedWith Nation (New York, N.Y. : 1865). corporateBody
associatedWith Oakley, Kenneth Page, 1911 person
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associatedWith Sarton, George, 1884-1956 person
associatedWith Sinclair, Upton, 1878-1968. person
associatedWith Sorokin, Pitirim Aleksandrovich, 1889-1968 person
associatedWith Spivak, Lawrence E. (Lawrence Edmund), 1900-1994. person
associatedWith Yerkes, Robert Mearns, 1876-1956 person
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
Anthropology, ethnography, fieldwork
Biology, genetics, eugenics
College teachers
English teachers
Race, race relations, racism
Social conditions, social advocacy, social reform
Social inequality


Birth 1904-09-19

Death 1978-02-04




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