“WE DO NOT KNOW WHAT IT FEELS LIKE when another man thinks his thoughts,” Lola Scobey once wrote. “Exactly how it seems to him as he trembles in the sweetness of his vision, or the corruption of his nightmares, no one will ever know. Thus, at a certain point, explanation stops. We see what we see, hear what we hear, read what we read, and are puzzled about the rest.” *

No, we don’t know what it feels like when other people think their thoughts, but we seek to know. We are captivated by creative people’s lives, and we want to understand how it is that they do what they do. That’s why the obituary pages of the newspaper are curiously delightful—when we read them we don’t read about death, we read about life, and therefore they leave us with high spirits.

And that is also why we, here at American Ethnography, dived into the vaults and came up with obituaries on some of the trendsetting anthropologists of the last century. Go ahead, they’re yours, please read! And be, perhaps, “puzzled about the rest.”

* The quote is taken from the liner notes to Townes Van Zandt’s 1969 album Our Mother the Mountain.



Ruth Benedict’s obituary, penned by Margaret Mead in 1948.

Robert Lowie wrote Edward B. Tylor’s obituary in 1917.

Lowie also wrote Richard Thurnwald’s obituary, in 1954.

Then Paul Radin wrote Robert Lowie’s obituary, in 1958.

And finally, here’s Alfred Kroeber’s obituary, written by Julian Steward in 1961.