Thursday, July 8, 2010

Happy Franz Boas Day!

July 9th marks the day that Franz Boas was born. In the tradition of Darwin Day and Ada Lovelace Day I'd like to start a day to celebrate the life and works of Franz Boas and also Social Science in general. Social Science contributes to the body of scientific knowledge and can make positive impacts on people's lives. With Social Science we learn about ourselves as people and as scientists. Social Science allows us to improve the way we do science in general and should be celebrated just as much as the so called hard-sciences.

Franz Boas is known as 'The Father of American Anthropology' because of his influence on modern Anthropology. His original doctorate was in physics and he believed strongly in applying the scientific method to Anthropology. This approach completely changed Anthropology for the better. Previously, cultural studies were not rigorously conducted and they relied on interpretations of anecdotal experience.

Boas is also famous for his activism in fighting racism and cultural bias in science. Biological Anthropology in Boas' time was very much focused on categorising people into racial groups. Boas argued that differences between groups were mostly social, not biological and that science was being used to perpetuate racism when it should be being used to reduce it. Boas also opened up opportunities for women in science and his most (in)famous pupils were women. Anthropology was a new frontier without the old boys club of other disciplines, which gave women a chance to get involved right from the start.

So, this July 9th think of Boas. Or next July 9th, since by time you read this it will be over.

If you'd like to comment, I'd like to hear about a something in Social Science you really like. Or maybe you could share a scientist that inspires you and you think deserves a 'day'.
Advocatus Diaboli

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