Berthold Laufer biography

Berthold Laufer

Anthropologist, Academic

1874 – 1934


Who was Berthold Laufer?

Berthold Laufer was an anthropologist and historical geographer with an expertise in East Asian languages.

Laufer was born in Cologne in Germany to Max and Eugenie Laufer. His paternal grandparents Salomon and Johanna Laufer were adherents of the Jewish faith. Laufer had a brother Heinrich who worked as a physician in Cairo.

Laufer attended the Friedrich Wilhelms Gymnasium from 1884-1893. He continued his studies in Berlin and completed his doctorate degree at the University of Leipzig in 1897. The following year he emigrated to the United States where he remained until his death. He carried out ethnographic fieldwork on the Amur River and Sakhalin Island during 1898-1899 as part of the Jesup North Pacific Expedition. He worked as assistant in Ethnology at the American Museum of Natural History, became a lecturer in Anthropology and East-Asiatic Languages at Columbia University. The rest of his career he spent at the Field Museum in Chicago. He served as the president of the History of Science Society in 1932.

Laufer died on September 13, 1934 after falling from the 8th floor fire escape of the Chicago Beach Hotel in Chicago, where he lived. He had been recovering from the removal of a tumor at the time, but his widow claimed he was in good spirits, and the Coroner's jury returned an undetermined verdict.

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Oct 11, 1874
  • United States of America
  • University of Leipzig
  • Humboldt University of Berlin
  • Columbia University
Sep 13, 1934

on July 23, 2013


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