Loren Eiseley


Biography of Loren Eiseley

Loren Eiseley (September 3, 1907 – July 9, 1977) was an American anthropologist, educator, philosopher, and natural science writer, who taught and published books from the 1950s through the 1970s. During this period he received more than 36 honorary degrees and was a fellow of many distinguished professional societies. At his death, he was Benjamin Franklin Professor of Anthropology and History of Science at the University of Pennsylvania.

He was noted as a “scholar and writer of imagination and grace,” which gained him a reputation and record of accomplishment far beyond the campus where he taught for 30 years. Publishers Weekly referred to him as "the modern Thoreau." The broad scope of his many writings considered such diverse topics as the mind of Sir Francis Bacon, the prehistoric origins of man, and the contributions of Charles Darwin.

Eiseley’s national reputation was established mainly through his books, including The Immense Journey (1957), Darwin's Century (1958), The Unexpected Universe (1969), The Night Country (1971), and his memoir, All the Strange Hours (1975). Science author Orville Prescott praised him as a scientist who “can write with poetic sensibility and with a fine sense of wonder and of reverence before the mysteries of life and nature.“ Naturalist author Mary Ellen Pitts saw his combination of literary and nature writings as his "quest, not simply for bringing together science and literature... but a continuation of what the 18th and 19th century British naturalists and Thoreau had done." In praise of "The Unexpected Universe", Ray Bradbury remarked, "[Eiseley] is every writer's writer, and every human's human. . . one of us. yet most uncommon. . ."

According to his obituary in the New York Times, the feeling and philosophical motivation of the entire body of Dr. Eiseley’s work was best expressed in one of his essays, The Enchanted Glass: “The anthropologist wrote of the need for the contemplative naturalist, a man who, in a less frenzied era, had time to observe, to speculate, and to dream.” Shortly before his death, he received an award from the Boston Museum of Science for his “outstanding contribution to the public understanding of science” and another from the U.S. Humane Society for his “significant contribution for the improvement of life and environment in this country.”

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