May 1, 2002
Gordon R. Willey, Archaeologist of Pre-Columbian America, Dies at 89
By WOLFGANG SAXON
Dr. Gordon Randolph Willey, a Harvard archaeologist who broadened the study of vanished societies from the examination of the tombs of the elite to include the economic and social lives of ordinary people, died on Sunday in Cambridge, Mass. He was 89.
A prolific scholar of pre-Columbian America, Dr. Willey pioneered what is known as settlement pattern studies, an approach he applied methodically in the Viru Valley on the northern coast of Peru in the 1940's.
He investigated the artifacts of households and public works to open a new window on a society of long ago. The remains of its ancient settlements, he found, reflected their inhabitants' use of their environment and their relations with their neighbors.
That, in turn, permitted the anthropologists of today to reconstruct the economic, political and social organization of ancient peoples.
Dr. Willey, who was at Harvard for 36 years, distinguished himself with meticulously documented research at Maya archaeological sites in Belize, Guatemala and Honduras. He made substantive and theoretical contributions to the archaeology of the Americas and to comparative studies with the old civilizations of other continents.
Before setting his sights on the Viru Valley, he reported important findings about the history of the Southeastern United States, using innovative methods to analyze pottery and reconstruct ancient cultures.
Born in Chariton, Iowa, Gordon Willey graduated in 1935 from the University of Arizona and was selected for Phi Beta Kappa. He received a master's from Arizona the next year and a Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1942.
Early in his career he worked for the Smithsonian.
His book "Archeology of the Florida Gulf Coast" (1949), became an instant classic and remains in the backpacks of archaeologists working there. A reprint edition is now available.
More than a dozen of Dr. Willey's books and monographs are still in print. Their topics include excavations at Seibal, Guatemala; the archaeology of Southern Mesoamerica; and the early classic period in the Maya Lowlands.
With Jeremy A. Sabloff he wrote "A History of American Archeology," which scholars consider a major work in the field, defending his settlement pattern approach to excavations. Its third edition was issued in 1993 and remains in print. Some of his writing was devoted to archaeological mystery novels, the first of which, "Selena," was republished by Harlequin Books in 1995.
Dr. Willey was named Harvard's first Charles P. Bowditch professor of Central American and Mexican archaeology in 1950. He served as department chairman later in the 1950's, became Bowditch professor emeritus in 1984 but continued as a senior professor of anthropology until 1987.
He was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences, and he was a past president of the American Archaeological Society.
Dr. Willey is survived by two daughters, Alexandra Gurelnick and Winston Adler, and five grandchildren. His wife, Katharine Whaley Willey, died last year after 63 years of marriage.
October 19, 2003
Beatrice Whiting, 89, Expert on Culture's Role in Personality, Dies
By STUART LAVIETES
Dr. Beatrice Blyth Whiting, an anthropologist at Harvard and an expert on the influence of culture on personality, died on Sept. 29 in Cambridge, Mass. She was 89.
Dr. Whiting and her husband, Dr. John W. M. Whiting, a fellow Harvard anthropologist, traveled extensively to study parental practices and child behavior, hoping to identify aspects of human development found in all cultures.
In 1954, she and her husband began the Six Cultures Study of Socialization, a project that involved field studies in Mexico, India, Kenya, Okinawa, the Philippines and the United States. Their work with the project resulted in many scholarly articles.
Twelve years later, they founded the Child Development Research Unit at the University of Nairobi to conduct more intensive studies in Kenya.
In the 1980's, after their retirement from Harvard, the Whitings turned their attention to older children, directing the Comparative Adolescence Project.
Dr. Whiting developed a particular interest in the development of gender roles, a subject she covered in her 1988 book, "Children of Different Worlds: The Formation of Social Behavior," written with Dr. Carolyn P. Edwards. Her book on the lives of Kenyan women, "Ngecha: A Kenyan Community in a Time of Rapid Social Change," also written with Dr. Edwards, is to be published later this year.
Dr. Whiting, who joined Harvard's faculty in 1952, became one of the first women at the university to receive tenure when she was named professor of education at the graduate school of education in 1974. She was a graduate of Bryn Mawr and received a doctorate in anthropology from Yale in 1943.
She lived in Cambridge and in Chilmark on Martha's Vineyard.
Beatrice Blyth Whiting was born on Staten Island on April 14, 1914. She is survived by her daughter, Susan Whiting of Chilmark and Stuart, Fla. Her husband died in 1999.
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January 20, 2004
Paul I. Abell, 80, Professor Who Found Early Biped Footprints, Dies
By WOLFGANG SAXON
Paul I. Abell, a chemistry professor who on a field trip in 1978 at Laetoli in East Africa came across the footprints of ancestral bipeds made famous by Mary Leakey, died Jan. 12 at his home in Kingston, R.I. He was 80.
The cause was prostate cancer, his family said.
Dr. Abell taught organic chemistry at the University of Rhode Island for 40 years, retiring in 1990. His research focused on the chemistry of free radicals, the analysis of moon rocks and paleoclimatology, in which he examined snail fossils to determine climatic changes.
He regularly spent sabbaticals far afield, in Britain and Egypt. For 17 summers, he helped the Leakey family of anthropologists-paleontologists look for evidence of early hominids in Tanzania.
Working with Mary Leakey's team at Laetoli in 1978, he chanced upon a footprint that proved to be part of the famous 80-foot trail of hominid footprints left in hardened volcanic ash dated at 3.6 million to 3.7 million years old. On having them excavated, Leakey concluded that two individual bipeds had made the tracks, with possibly with a third stepping in the prints of the biggest of the three. She also concluded that the prints established that human ancestors had begun walking upright much earlier than previously thought.
Paul Irving Abell was born in Pelham, Mass. He served in the Army Signal Corps in Europe and Japan in World War II and graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 1948. After he received his Ph.D. in organic chemistry at the University of Wisconsin in 1951, he started as an instructor at the University of Rhode Island. Over the years, he was a Fulbright lecturer in Egypt and went on research expeditions in paleontology to the Omo River and Lake Rudolf regions of East Africa for the National Geographic Society.
Surviving are three daughters, Susan, of Winchester, Mass.; Erin Gallagher of San Francisco; and Octavia Abell of Wakefield, R.I.; and a sister, Jane A. Coon of Washington.
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February 20, 2004
Jean Rouch, an Ethnologist and Filmmaker, Dies at 86
By ALAN RIDING
PARIS, Feb. 19 — Jean Rouch, a French explorer, ethnologist and film director who played a significant role in forging the cinéma-vérité style, died on Wednesday night in a car crash in the west central African nation of Niger, the French Embassy there said. He was 86.
Mr. Rouch (pronounced roosh) was attending a film festival in Niger, where he first worked as a civil engineer more than 60 years ago. Reuters reported from Niamey, the Niger capital, that Mr. Rouch's wife, Jocylene Lamothe, the Niger filmmaker Moustapha Alassane and a Niger actor, Damouré Zika, were also injured in the accident.
With a movie career that stretched back more than half a century and included about 120 films, Mr. Rouch had a special place in French cinema. His best-known films, "The Mad Masters" and "I, a Black," made in the 1950's, presented not only a new ethnographic view of Africa to French audiences, but also demonstrated to new wave directors like Jean-Luc Godard what could be done with a hand-held camera.
Although he also ran the Cinémathèque Française in Paris from 1987 to 1991, Africa was always Mr. Rouch's first love. African myths and rituals were the focus of many of his documentaries, but he also occasionally turned them into fictional material for feature films.
Born in Paris into a family of scientists (his father directed the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco), he studied humanities and civil engineering. Drafted into the French Army in 1939, he avoided capture when France fell in June 1940. The next year he was sent to Niger, then a French colony, to work as an engineer.
During the 1940's he explored Niger, traveling down the Niger River by canoe and crossing the country on horseback. At one moment in those years he witnessed what he described as a "marvelous and horrible" funeral ceremony. "I told myself," he later recounted, "this can't be described in words, it has to be filmed." In 1947, using a borrowed camera, he made his first documentary, "In the Country of the Black Magicians."
Although much of his life's work focused on Africa, he also made documentaries and feature films about France, including "Chronicle of a Summer" (1960), with the sociologist Edgar Morin, and the 1965 film "Paris Vu Par . . . ," made with several new wave directors, including Mr. Godard, Claude Chabrol and Eric Rohmer.
While in recent years his movies went largely unnoticed by a larger public, Mr. Rouch remained prolific, making about a half dozen movies in the 1990's. Recently he campaigned publicly against plans to disperse the ethnographic works at the Musée de l'Homme to boost the collection of a new museum of primitive art, to be called the Musée du Quai Branly, created on orders of President Jacques Chirac.
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