Richard B. WOODBURY and Nathalie F. S. WOODBURY : The Rise and Fall of the Bureau of American Ethnology

Journal article by Nathalie F. S. Woodbury, Richard B. Woodbury ; Published in Journal of the Southwest, Vol. 41, 1999.

The Smithsonian Institution, in which the Bureau of American Ethnology (BAE) was lodged administratively throughout its existence, was founded in 1846 after rancorous congressional debate about the relative merits of using James Smithson’s bequest for establishing a national library, for training teachers, for an astronomical observatory, for mineralogical collection, or for other diverse purposes (Washburn 1965 : 24-27). Joseph Henry, a distinguished physicist who was professor of science at Princeton, was appointed its secretary and his plans for research immediately included archaeology, linguistics, and the acquisition of material for museum exhibits. Henry excluded physical (biological) anthropology because, as Curtis Hinsley (1981 : 22) expresses it, he found it « politically explosive and morally repugnant. » It was not until 1903 that the Smithsonian included physical anthropology in its research, with the appointment, by William H. Holmes, of Ales Hrdlicka to a position in the U.S. National Museum.

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