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Darwin-L Message Log 6:62 (February 1994)

Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences

This is one message from the Archives of Darwin-L (1993–1997), a professional discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.

Note: Additional publications on evolution and the historical sciences by the Darwin-L list owner are available on SSRN.


<6:62>From GOLLAV@axe.humboldt.edu  Sat Feb 12 04:20:32 1994

Date: Sat, 12 Feb 1994 02:24 PST
From: GOLLAV@axe.humboldt.edu
Subject: Re: Rafinesque's Walam Olum
To: Darwin-L@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu

A footnote on Rafinesque and the Walam Olum:

As Fred Gleach and Sally Thomason point out, it was the pharmaceutical
magnate and patriotic Hoosier, Eli Lilly, who sponsored the scholarly
study of Rafinesque's "document" that was published in 1954 by the
Indiana Historical Society. (Full title: _Walam Olum, or Red Score,
the Migration Legend of the Lenni Lenape or Delaware Indians.  A new
translation, interpreted by linguistic, historical, archaeological,
ethnological, and physical anthropological studies_.  Indianapolis:
Indiana Historical Society, 1954.)  Lilly was convinced that the Walam
Olum was authentic.

But there is more to the story.  The principal scholar behind the 1954
study was Carl Voegelin, who had the first full-time appointment in
anthropology at Indiana University.  This position (1944), and subsequently
the establishment of an anthropology department at Bloomington, was under-
written by Lilly, who had been sponsoring Voegelin's research on Delaware
and other Algonquian languages since the late 1930s.  Lilly's patronage was
contingent on Voegelin's dedicating a considerable chunk of his time to the
Walam Olum (and evaluating it as positively as he could).  Thus, one of the
country's leading anthropology departments--and the career of one of the
foremost anthropological linguists of the 20th century--had their origins
in the fixation of a wealthy old man on a bizarre 19th century hoax.

Perhaps more than other historical sciences, anthropology has been the
beneficiary of wealthy patrons with pet projects, skillfully moulded to
institution-building purposes by academic entrepreneurs like Voegelin.
Anthropology in California is another instance.  Phoebe Apperson Hearst's
original subsidy was for an "Egyptian museum" (she was especially fond of
mummies), but F. W. Putnam and A. L. Kroeber were able to use the money
to create an institution largely devoted to field research on California
Indians.  Nevertheless, the Lowie (now Hearst) Museum still has a sizable
collection of Egyptian artifacts, nearly all of them acquired during Mrs.
Hearst's time, although so far as I know no Egyptologist has ever been on
the museum staff.

The all-time record in accommodating a patron, though, belongs to the
astronomers (also at Berkeley).  The San Francisco grandee James Lick,
like Mrs. Hearst, had an Egyptological penchant, and as he lay dying he
made plans for his body to be entombed in a pyramid on a high peak over-
looking the bay.  Hearing of this, the President of the University of
California paid Lick a visit and deftly argued that one of the functions
of the Great Pyramid having been astronomical observation, endowing a
university observatory would be the modern equivalent, and more appropriate
to a secular age.  Lick capitulated, but not until he extracted one
important concession from the President.  And that is why, should you
visit Lick Observatory on Mt. Hamilton, you will discover the following
inscription on the pier of the original telescope:  "Here Lies the Body of
James Lick."

--Victor Golla
  Humboldt State University
  Arcata, California 95521
  gollav @ axe.humboldt.edu

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