Science Encounters the Indian, 1820-1880: The Early Years of American Ethnology

Front Cover
University of Oklahoma Press, May 1, 2003 - Social Science - 304 pages

Early nineteenth-century ethnologists viewed the American Indians through a prism of intellectual arguments inherited from European Enlightenment thinkers. From that perspective, the Indians were seen as an inferior race whose primitive existence stemmed from an adverse environment, and whose "progress" depended on the civilizing effects of education and an altered physical environment.

The evolution away from that view, in the face of new physical evidence and changing cultural perceptions, is the theme of this in-depth study of five ethnologists whose research and writing paralleled the development of nineteenth-century ethnology in the United States. The five major figures were Albert Gallatin, Samuel G. Morton, Ephraim G. Squier, Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, and Lewis Henry Morgan.

Much more than biology, this study explores the social and intellectual context within which these scientists proposed their theories, as well as the significance of those theories for the crucial issues of Indian advancement, intermarriage and origins. It is also a history of the emerging profession of ethnology, in which scholars debated the Indian's potential for civilization, organized professional societies, and sought avenues to publish their unusual research.

Distinguished anthropologist Raymond D. Fogelson says of this groundbreaking work by Robert E. Bieder: "It covers in comprehensive and comprehensible fashion the backgrounds that produced a distinctive American ethnology and its later professionalization. Subsequent research will be footnotes to Bieder's magnificent effort. The scholarship is impeccable. It is one of those books of lasting value."


What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.


Preface Page xi
Albert Gallatin and Enlightenment Ethnology
Samuel G Morton and the Calculations
Ephraim George Squier and the Archaeology
Henry Rowe Schoolcraft and the Ethnologist
Lewis Henry Morgan and the Evolution of

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

References to this book

About the author (2003)

Robert E. Bieder is well known as a writer and editor on American Indians and the history of American ethnology and ethnography. He holds the doctorate in history from the University of Minnesota and is Visiting Professor of History in Indiana University.

Bibliographic information