Today in Philippine History, July 13, 1883, Henry Otley Beyer was born in Edgewood, Iowa

  
Henry Otley Beyer   
On July 13, 1883, Henry Otley Beyer, dubbed as the "Father of Philippine Anthropology", a Filipinologist, was born in Edgewood, Iowa, USA. He received his B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of Denver, Colorado and later pursued further graduate studies at Harvard University as a Winthrop scholar.

His interest in the Philippines was first kindled after witnessing the fifty-acre Philippine exhibition at the Saint Louis Exposition of 1904. To fulfill his dream of going to the Philippines, he took a job with the Ethnological Survey Office, Philippine Civil Service, in July 1905. The Philippine Reorganization Act of 1905, however, transferred the Office of Ethnological Survey to the Bureau of Education headed by David P. Barrows. Barrows commissioned Beyer to do research among the Ifugaos until 1908.

From 1908 to 1909, Beyer traveled in Asia, North Africa, and Europe. Appointed Ethnologist in the Bureau of Science of the colonial U.S. government in the Philippines in 1909, he returned to the Philippines in 1910. From 1910 to 1914, Beyer was deeply involved in field research among the Ifugaos, Igorots, Apayaos, Kalingas, and the Christian peoples of Ilocos, Pangasinan, and Pampanga. During this period, he also had partial curatorial responsibility for the Philippine Museum which housed ethnological collections from Luzon and Mindanao.

In October, 1914, President Murray Bartlett of the University of the Philippines appointed Beyer to the newly created chair of anthropology. Beyer taught at the University of the Philippines from 1914 until his retirement in 1947 as Professor and Head of the Department of Anthropology. He became Professor Emeritus and was for years Curator of the University's Museum and Institute of Ethnology and Archaeology which he had founded.

Beyer was honored by several Philippine institutions. He was awarded honorary doctorates by Silliman, Ateneo de Manila, and the University of the Philippines. Before his death in 1966, three prestigious universities published commemoration volumes as a tribute to his dedication to Philippine scholarship: San Carlos University in Cebu City, Ateneo de Manila, and the University of the Philippines, in cooperation with the National Museum of the Philippines, the National Science Development Board, and the National Research Council of the Philippines.

In assessing his achievements, Abraham Van Heyningen Hartendorp, Beyer's friend and contemporary, wrote in 1967 that Beyer is

"... the author of numerous books and ethnological, archaeological and historical papers with literally hundreds of volumes of material still unpublished, and long ago won world fame. He may be said to be the Dean of Philippine ethnology, archaeology, and prehistory".

One of Beyer’s most distinguished Filipino students was Dr. Carlos P. Romulo. According to Romulo:

"Professor H. Otley Beyer has consistently devoted himself to the search for knowledge. He has illumined for us several facts about our country and about our existence and has given a meaningful context to many aspects of our arts and artifacts. His love for the Philippines has given us a basis for knowing more about ourselves and our country. It would not be amiss to say, that Professor Beyer had done a lot to inspire and initiate the present generation of Filipino scholars and Filipinologists ... we are proud of his record as a scholar and as a professor. We owe him much and his name will always be remembered as that of one who did a great deal to advance anthropology in the Philippines".

Beyer died on December 31, 1966. He was survived by his Ifugao wife by whom he had one son, William Beyer.

Reference:
Philippines News Agency
American Anthropologist, Volume 76, Nomber 2, October 28, 2009, Wiley Online Library
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

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