A German anthropologist, born in Minden in 1858, whose main work was done in North America. He developed a new view of culture and race in which other cultures were not to be seen as inferior, early way-stations in an evolutionary progress, but fully functioning and living things: he was a strong opponent of racism. Boas espoused the study of all aspects of a culture. He believed that culture was partly shaped by the particulars of geography.

He particularly worked with the Kwakiutl people of British Columbia, now more accurately known as the (deep breath) Kwakwaka'wakw people. This included making films and sound recordings of their dances, games, and activities, though he did not complete an analysis of these. Boas began studying the Kwakiutl in 1888, publishing a paper on their songs and dances.

His first expedition was to the Inuit of Baffin Island. He began teaching in the United States in 1889, and became a professor at Columbia University in 1899. He was also long associated with the American Museum of Natural History. Their field studies produced many valuable grammars of native American languages.

His books include The Mind of Primitive Man (1911), Primitive Art (1927), Anthropology and Modern Life (1928), and Race, Language and Culture (1940). He retired from Columbia in 1936 and died in 1942.