Friending Franz Boas

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Today Franz Boas invited me to become his Facebook friend. Yes, that Franz Boas, the distinguished anthropologist and linguist. The Facebook profile has the facts right: hometown Minden [in Westphalia], Germany (it doesn't say that he was born there in 1858); current city New York, New York (well, that's where he died, in 1942, in Claude Lévi-Strauss's arms, at the Columbia University Faculty Club); political views socialist.

Boas's many students included anthropologists/linguists Alfred Kroeber and Edward Sapir and others well-known outside of linguistics (Ruth Benedict, Zora Neale Hurston, and Margaret Mead among them).

The Facebook account is a little academic joke, which I'm happy to take part in. Among his Facebook friends are Heidi Harley, Norma Mendoza-Denton, Bill Poser, and Ben Zimmer of this parish, plus quite a few others (Brian Joseph, Dennis Preston, Jesse Sheidlower, Tony Woodbury, for instance).

I'd imagine that Edward Sapir and Leonard Bloomfield will soon be getting accounts.


  1. mollymooly said,

    April 19, 2010 @ 1:15 pm

    Jurgen Habermas isn't on Twitter, and he's not even dead.

  2. James C. said,

    April 19, 2010 @ 6:17 pm

    OMG I would totally friend Ed. I dunno about Bloomie though, they say he’s like, kinda weird or something.

  3. Kenny Easwaran said,

    April 20, 2010 @ 12:53 am

    I'm friends with Gottlob Frege and Alan Turing! I believe J.S. Bach is still around too, though I haven't seen any activity on his account lately – I'm beginning to fear the worst.

  4. gribley said,

    April 20, 2010 @ 1:58 am

    heck, that's nothing — I'm friends with Ardipithecus ramidus (via Carl Zimmer, naturally), and he's been dead way longer than Boas!

  5. IrrationalPoint said,

    April 20, 2010 @ 6:44 am

    Lisa and Bart Simpson are on facebook too, and some iconic buildings.


  6. Robert Link said,

    April 20, 2010 @ 8:07 pm

    There's a fair few "dead" guys on twitter. My favorite is "R.A.W.", Robert Anton Wilson. When I wrote the twitter folks and told them this had to be a spoof account I got no reply. I reckon one day someone's estate will squawk about this kind of appropriation of name/likeness but that day hasn't yet arrived, and, anyway, maybe it's all just good clean fun. While I few folks might not know RAW died, certainly everyone should know Boas has been gone a while.

  7. Ben said,

    April 21, 2010 @ 5:01 pm

    I want to friend Sapir, but I'm afraid that if I do Ben Whorf will send me a friend request and then get mad when I don't accept.

  8. Robert said,

    April 22, 2010 @ 9:21 pm

    I wonder if Nicolas Bourbaki will be getting an account any time soon. Of course, nobody really knows if he's alive or dead.

  9. Robert said,

    April 22, 2010 @ 9:37 pm

    And another thing, this reminds me of Anton Chekhov's book signing. In New York. In 2004.

  10. 4ndyman said,

    May 4, 2010 @ 3:08 pm

    That's nothin'. One of my Twitter followers is JesusChrist.

  11. mpb said,

    December 16, 2010 @ 3:23 pm

    I have 2 FB FB friends and FB just told me I should friend another. More confusing than a 4-field approach.

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