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Letter from Franz Boas to A. L. Kroeber

Alfred L Kroeber Papers
Bancroft Library

COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY,
DEPARTMENT OF ANTHROPOLOGY,
FRANZ BOAS, PROFESSOR. NEW YORK,

May 20, 1902.

Dr. Alfred L. Kroeber,
443 Eddy Street,
San Francisco, Cal.

My dear Kroeber,-

I have your note of May 11. I think there is only one solution to the difficulty which you mention, and that is to discharge the Committee, which, so far as I can see, must always be an encumbrance. You may be sure that I shall do my best to bring this about, and as soon as I can. I am very much opposed to this particular kind of interference with work by a committee who, at best, take only a half-interest in the matter, and who cannot possibly know what is needed. My own opinion in this matter is that you were appointed in California primarily for the purpose of investigation, and that instruction should take a secondary place. I should consider it quite appropriate if you were to give every year a course of lectures giving the results of your work, and if you expand this course gradually as you expand your own studies. If you were to work out a course of systematic anthropological instruction, you would have to give up for years all research work, and even then your success would depend entirely upon the degree of co-operation that you could get from other men in the university. All you can hope to do is really to pave the way for systematic instruction. It is quite likely that in a few years you may find it advisable to give a course on comparative ethnology covering sociology, religions, etc., which, however, you can very well largely base on your own experience until, in course of time, your own knowledge will have Alfred L Kroeber Papers
Bancroft Library

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so broadened out that your courses will broaden out correspondingly. You may succeed by such instruction during the next few years in interesting some of your students in the subject, and I presume that you would feel that they would be best served by going to a university for a few years where they could have greater advantages than you can offer at the present time. These same men might, of course, in course of time, become your helpers in expanding your department.

If I may offer any advice to you, it is to concentrate yourself so far as you can on investigation and on expansion of your general knowledge on the lines required for carrying on your investigations.

Yours very sincerely,

Franz Boas

BANC MSS C-B 925 9:26