Tap to Read ➤

History of Anthropology

Anthropology is the science that deals with the origin and evolution of mankind and civilization. Here, we shall see its progression right from the days of Aristotle to Margaret Mead.
Scholasticus K Feb 6, 2019
Anthropology is often defined as a branch of science that studies human beings. The study of anthropology covers a vast scope including the human body, human evolution, biology, and even genetics. Modern anthropology has been divided into 4 different branches, namely, biological anthropology, cultural anthropology, archeology and anthropological linguistics.
Even though anthropology, as a discipline of study, did not appear until the 16th century, many philosophers, like Aristotle, were conducting studies of anthropological nature as early as the 4th century BC. However, independent work, research, or any kind of study that was solely based on anthropology started from the 9th century AD.
Most of the early philosophers who conducted related research were Greek, like Herodotus in 500 BC, Aristotle in 400 BC, and Strabo in 100 BC. In this era, Roman philosophers like Lucretius made significant contributions to this field, while in the AD era, noted Roman philosophers like Tacitus, Aquinas and Polo were significant contributors.
Historians often claim that anthropology as a discipline originated during, and due to Renaissance. It is also believed that it evolved due to the other disciplines like social and cultural sciences, archeology, sociology, and history.
The term 'anthropology' was coined in 16th century Germany by university professors. In those times, it was not studied as a different discipline, but was understood to be the systematic examination and observation of the evolution of man as a physical and moral being.
Some noted writers and researchers, who tried to differentiate anthropology as a different branch of study were Michel de Montaigne, Jean Bodin, Blaise Pascal, and Rene Descartes. English researchers such as John Locke and David Hume also contributed to the study. Philosophers Immanuel Kant, and Baruch Spinoza, were among the early fathers of anthropology.
The most revolutionizing works in anthropology were written by Charles Darwin. He wrote The Voyage of the Beagle, that was published in 1845 AD, and On the Origin of Species, that appeared in 1859 AD.
Another famous publication on anthropology, by French naturalist Georges Buffon, was 'Histoire Naturelle'. 'Histoire Naturelle' is an encyclopedia in which 2 of the 44 volumes were on anthropology and was published between 1749-1804. He assumed that man is not a social animal but a zoological creature. The assumption proposed a new dimension of research.
The German anthropologist, Johann F. Blumenbach, played a highly instrumental role in the development of the branch known as physical anthropology.

Modern-day anthropology has been highly influenced by the works of American, Margaret Mead, during the middle of the 20th century.
The developing technological sciences and developments in research techniques has helped anthropologists all over the world to piece together the journey of mankind.
Today, many anthropologists are trying to find out the location and origins of mankind and civilization. Modern studies have also facilitated historians to find solutions for some of the unanswered questions about the origin of man and the human history.