Sample Anthropology Paper on Franz Boaz

Franz Boaz

Franz Boas is a significant figure in the development of anthropology. He arrived in the US in 1886 after leaving Germany where he was born in 1858. (Williams, 2012). Because of his enormous contributions and impact on the profession, he is regarded as the “father of American anthropology.”

Brief Biography

German-born American anthropologist Franz Boas was born on July 9, 1858, in the town of Minden. His groundbreaking contributions to cultural anthropology have earned him the title of “Father of American Anthropology.” The University of Kiel awarded Boas a doctorate in physics and geography in 1881, but he eventually shifted his focus to the study of human communities and cultures. He arrived in America in 1887 and spent the next three decades teaching at Columbia University until retiring in 1938. Boas traveled much during his career, studying native populations in North America, Africa, South America, and Europe. He is well recognized for his cultural relativist theories, which hold that other civilizations must be studied independently rather than compared to Western ideals. The death of Boas occurred on December 21, 1942, in New York City.


Boas was a cultural anthropologist best recognized for his contributions to the theory of cultural relativism, which holds that other cultures should be understood on their own terms rather than evaluated in accordance with Western norms (Williams, 2012). He also highlighted the notion of cultural development, according to which civilizations alter and advance with time.

Boas was one of the first anthropologists to argue that all civilizations had the same capacity for growth and to reject the notion of a fixed, unilateral evolutionary trend. Additionally, he coined the term “cultural diffusion,” which describes how cultural aspects transfer from one civilization to another via commerce, migration, or other types of interaction (Williams, 2012).

Boas’ work significantly influenced the growth of anthropology as a field of study. He opposed the then-dominant scientific racism and contributed to the development of cultural anthropology as a distinct academic discipline. He also educated a huge number of pupils who later became well-known anthropologists, leaving a lasting impact (Williams, 2012).

Boas made significant contributions to the science of anthropology with his theories of cultural relativism and cultural evolution, which continue to influence how anthropologists approach the study of culture and human civilizations today. The emergence of anthropology as a field was significantly influenced by Boas’ theories of cultural relativism and cultural evolution. The dominant theory of cultural evolution, which claimed that some cultures were more “evolved” or “civilized” than others, was challenged by the concept of cultural relativism, which holds that cultural norms and practices should be understood within their own context and not judged by the standards of other cultures. According to Boas, all cultures are important in equal measure and need to be researched impartially and objectively. The emphasis of anthropology has evolved from a comparative analysis of cultures to a more comprehensive and emic knowledge of the beliefs, behaviors, and social structures of the cultures being studied as a result of this viewpoint (Williams, 2012).



Williams, V. J. (2012). Franz Boas. Anthropology.