William W. Howells, RIP

William Howells, a giant in physical anthropology, has died at 97. He was a stalwart of the “second generation” of anthropologists in this country. Anthropology as a modern social science was founded in America by Franz Boas, a German immigrant, who established a department at Columbia University in the 1890s. He trained the first generation of anthropologists: Alfred Kroeber, Robert Lowie, Margaret Mead, Ruth Benedict, Fay-Cooper Cole, Leslie Spier, Elsie Clews Parsons, Ruth Bunzel etc and sent them around the country to colonize other universities and train more researchers. Howells was in the second wave.

Howells made significant contributions in breaking down what had been conventional wisdom about racial differences. He wrote numerous standard works in physical anthropology, some of which were in use when I first got started. He had a long and productive career.

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