Alfred L. Kroeber : biography

June 11, 1876 - October 5, 1960

Kroeber's textbook, Anthropology (1923, 1948), was widely used for many years. In the late 1940s, it was one of ten books required as reading for all students during their first year at Columbia University. His book, Configurations of Cultural Growth (1944), had a lasting impact on social scientific research on genius and greatness; Kroeber believed that genius arose out of culture at particular times, rather than holding to "the great man" theory.Simonton, D.K. 1994. Greatness: Who Makes History and Why. New York: The Guilford Press. p375-82

Indian land claims

Kroeber served early on as the plaintiffs' director of research in Indians of California v. the United States, a land claim case.13 Ind. Cl. Comm. 369 (1964) His associate director and the director of research for the federal government in the case had both been students of his: Omer Stewart of the University of Colorado, and Ralph Beals of the University of California, Los Angeles, respectively.Beals, R. L. (1985). "The Anthropologist as Expert Witness: Illustrations from the California Indian Land Claims Case," in Irredeemable America: the Indians' Estate and Land Claims, ed. I. Sutton (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press); ch. 6. Heizer, Robert F., and Alfred L. Kroeber (1976). "For Sale: California at 47 Cents per Acre," Journal of California Anthropology 3:38-65. Kroeber's impact on the Indian Claims Commission may well have established the way expert witnesses presented testimony before the tribunal.Stewart, Omer C. (1961). "Kroeber and the Indian Claims Commission Cases," Kroeber Anthropological Society Papers, 25: 181-190. Several of his former students also served as expert witnesses; for instance, Stewart directed the plaintiff research for the Ute and for the Shoshone peoples.Stewart, Omer C. (1985). "The Shoshone Claims Cases," in Irredeemable America..., op. cit., ch. 8.

Partial list of works

  • "Indian Myths of South Central California" (1907), in University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology 4:167-250. Berkeley (Six Rumsien Costanoan myths, pp. 199–202); online at .
  • "The Religion of the Indians of California" (1907), in University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology 4:6. Berkeley, sections titled "Shamanism", "Public Ceremonies", "Ceremonial Structures and Paraphernalia", and "Mythology and Beliefs"; available at
  • , Washington, D.C: Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin No. 78
  • The Nature of Culture (1952). Chicago.
  • with Clyde Kluckhohn: Culture. A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions (1952). Cambridge.
  • Anthropology: Culture Patterns & Processes (1963). New York: Harcourt, Brace & World.

Awards and honors

  • Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1912)
  • Kroeber received five honorary degrees (Yale, California, Harvard, Columbia, Chicago)
  • He was awarded two gold medals.
  • He held honorary membership in 16 scientific societies.
  • President of the American Anthropological Association (1917–1918)

Marriage and family

Kroeber married Henrietta Rothschild in 1906. She contracted tuberculosis (TB) and died in 1913, after several years of illness.

In 1926 he married again, to Theodora Kraków Brown, a widow whom he met as a student in one of his graduate seminars. They had two children: Karl Kroeber, a literary critic, and the science fiction writer Ursula K. Le Guin. In addition, Alfred adopted Theodora's sons by her first marriage, Ted and Clifton Brown, who took his surname.

In 2003, the stepbrothers Clifton and Karl Kroeber published a book of essays on Ishi's story, which they co-edited, called, Ishi in Three Centuries.Clifton and Karl Kroeber (2002) Ishi in Three Centuries, Univ. of Nebraska Press ISBN 0803222505 This is the first scholarly book on Ishi to contain essays by Native American writers and academics.

Alfred Kroeber died in Paris on October 5, 1960.

Living octopus

Living octopus

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