Edward Burnett Tylor - Encyclopedia

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EDWARD BURNETT TYLOR (1832-), English anthropologist, was born at Camberwell, London, on the 2nd of October 1832, the son of Joseph Tylor, a brassfounder. Alfred Tylor, the geologist, was an elder brother. His parents were members of the Society of Friends, at one of whose schools, at Grove House, Tottenham, he was educated. In 1848 he entered his father's manufactory in London, but at about the age of twenty he was threatened with consumption and forced to abandon business. During 1855-1856 he travelled in the United States of America to recruit his health. Proceeding in 1856 to Cuba, he met Henry Christy the ethnologist, with whom he visited Mexico. Tylor's association with Christy greatly stimulated his awakening interest in anthropology, and his visit to Mexico, with its rich prehistoric remains, led him to make a systematic study of the science. While on a visit to Cannes he wrote a record of his observations, entitled Anahuac; or, Mexico and the Mexicans, Ancient and Modern, which was published in 1861. In 1865 appeared Researches into the Early History of Mankind, which made Tylor's reputation. It showed great research, original insight, and much constructive power in the formation of systematic views. The chapters on early myths and their geographical distribution are especially valuable. The work reached a third edition in 1878. This book was followed in 1871 by the more elaborate Primitive Culture: Researches into the Development of Mythology, Philosophy, Religion, Language, Art and Custom, which at once became the standard general treatise on anthropology. Tylor's treatment of animism (chs.xi. - xvii.) was particularly elaborate, and he first determined the limits of that province of anthropology intending it to include "the general doctrine of souls, and other spiritual beings." In 1881 Tylor published a smaller and more popular handbook on Anthropology. His work had already met with recognition. In 1871 he was elected F.R.S., and in 1875 received the honorary degree of D.C.L. from the university of Oxford. He was appointed keeper of the University Museum at Oxford in 1883, and reader in anthropology in 1884. In 1888 he was appointed first Gifford lecturer at Aberdeen University, and delivered a two years' course on "Natural Religion." In 1896 he became first professor of anthropology at Oxford. At the end of 1907 the Clarendon Press published a volume of Anthropological Essays, to which various representative scholars of a younger generation in the same field had contributed, the essays being dedicated and presented to Tylor as a mark of honour; and this collection includes not only a bibliography of his publications by Miss Freire-Marreco, but also an appreciation of Tylor's life-work by Andrew Lang.

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