U of I professor gives lecture on famous Lawrence grad

Kayla Wilson

Tues., April 10, Eugene Giles, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology from the University of Illinois at -Urbana-Champaign, presented a lecture titled “‘Penetrating Insight and Malice’: E. A. Hooten and American Physical Anthropology.”
Hooten, a 1907 Lawrence graduate, focused much of his career on early man and primates and was once declared Lawrence’s “most famous native son” by the Post-Crescent.
Giles gave an extensive overview of Hooten’s early life and career, reading from Hooten’s autobiography and showing off several pictures of Hooten that were taken at Lawrence.
Hooten, a Wisconsin native, moved around the state due to his father’s career as a traveling preacher. He received his undergraduate degree from Lawrence, and in his unfinished autobiography he described the piety of the mostly Methodist student body that attended daily chapel services on the third floor of Main Hall.
While at Lawrence, Hooten had the experience of knowing some of the people for whom our current buildings are named, including then-president Samuel Plantz, who was known to physically break up scuffles and otherwise terrify the student body.
While working at a penitentiary in Waupun one summer, Hooten noticed that criminals seemed to have something physically different about them, which he believed affected the crimes they committed. This was to become the impetus for his interest in anthropology.
Hooten went on to study at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the classics department and later studied at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar.
Soon after his time at Oxford he was offered a position in the anthropology department at Harvard, where he taught for over 40 years.
The afternoon’s speaker had the pleasure of taking two classes from Hooten as an undergraduate, describing him as “very entertaining.”
In addition to his scholarly works, Hooten also wrote for popular publications, including Good Housekeeping. His research also curiously set the standard for seat measurements still used by Boeing aircraft.
“Hooten personified physical anthropology in the early 20th century,” said Giles. In addition, Hooten turned out a large number of very successful graduate students who went on to diversify the anthropology field.