The Times/1940/Obituary/Alfred Cort Haddon

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Obituary of Dr. Alfred Cort Haddon  (1940) 

Source: Obituary. The Times, Monday, Apr 22, 1940; Issue 48596; pg. 3

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Dr. A. C. Haddon, Sc.D., F.R.S., the anthropologist and ethnologist, a Fellow of Christ's Church, Cambridge, died at Cambridge on Saturday.

Alfred Cort Haddon, who was born on May 24, 1855, near London, was the elder son of John Haddon, head of a firm of typefounders and printers. He was educated at Christ's College, Cambridge, where he studied zoology and became the friend of J. Holland Rose (afterwards Harmsworth Professor of Naval History), whose sister he married in 1883. Shortly after proceeding M.A., he was appointed Demonstrator in Zoology in 1882, and for a time studied marine biology in Naples. In 1883 he was appointed Professor of Zoology at the College of Science in Dublin. His first publications were "An Introduction to Embryology" in 1887, and various papers on marine biology, which led to his being invited to go to Torres Straits to study coral reefs and marine zoology, and while thus engaged he first became attracted to anthropology [sic.]. On his return home he published many papers dealing with the natives, urging the importance of securing all possible information about these and kindred peoples before they were overwhelmed by civilization. He advocated that in Cambridge (encouraged thereto by T. H. Huxley), whither he came to give lectures I the Anatomy School from 1894 to 1898, and at last funds were raised to equip an expedition to Torres Straits to make a scientific study of the people, and Dr. Haddon was asked to assume the leadership. To assist him he succeeded in obtaining the help of Dr. W. H. R. Rivers, and in after years he used to say that he counted it his chief claim to fame that he had diverted Dr. Rivers from psychology to anthropology. In April, 1898, the expedition arrived at its field of work and spent over a year in Torres Straits, New Guinea, and Borneo, and brought home a large collection of ethnographical specimens, some of which are now in the British Museum, but the bulk of them for one of the glories of the Cambridge Museum. The main results of the expedition are published in "The Reports of the Cambridge Expedition to Torres Straits."

In 1897, Dr. Haddon had obtained his Sc.D. degree in recognition of the work he had already done, some of which he had incorporated in his "Decorative art of New Guinea," a large monograph published as one of the Cunningham Memoirs in 1894, and on his return home from his second expedition he was elected a Fellow of his College (Junior Fellow in 1901, Senior Fellow in 1904). He was appointed Lecturer in Ethnology in the University of Cambridge in 1900, and Reader in 1909, a post from which he retired in 1926. Haddon paid a third visit to New Guinea in 1914, and came home during the last War, but the War destroyed the study of Anthropology in the University for the time, and he went to France to work for the Y.M.C.A. after the War he renewed his constant struggle to establish a sound School of Anthropology in Cambridge.

On his retirement Haddon was made honorary keeper of the rich collections from New Guinea which the Cambridge Museum possesses, and also wrote up the remaining parts of the Torres Straits Reports, which his busy teaching and administrative life had forced him to set aside. His help and counsel to younger men was then still more freely at their service, and as always he continually laid aside his own work to help them with theirs.

Dr. Haddon was president of Section H (Anthropology) in the British Association meetings of 1902 and 1905. He was president of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain, of the Folk Lore Society, and of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society; received from the R.A.I. the Huxley Medal in 1920; and was the first recipient of the Rovers Medal in 1924. he was the first to recognize the ethnological importance of string figures and tricks, known in England as "cats' cradles," but found all over the world as a pastime among native peoples. He and Dr. Rivers invented a nomenclature and method of describing the process of making the different figures, and one of his daughters, Mrs. Rishbeth, who became an expert, has written a book on the subject.

His chief publications, besides those already mentioned, were :— "Evolution in Art" (1895), "The Study of Man" (1898), "Head-hunters, Black, White and Brown" (1901), "The Races of Man" (1909) and a second edition, entirely rewritten in 1924, and "The Wanderings of People" (1911). He contributed to the "Encyclopaedia Britanica" and several articles to Hasting's "Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics," and a bibliography of his writings and papers runs to over 200 entries, without counting all his reviews of books.

His wife died in 1937 and he left a son and two daughters.

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