Charles Pickering Bowditch

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Charles Pickering Bowditch
Charles Pickering Bowditch.png
Born30 September 1842 Edit this on Wikidata
Died1 June 1921 Edit this on Wikidata (aged 78)

Charles Pickering Bowditch (September 30, 1842 – June 1, 1921) was an American financier, archaeologist, cryptographer and linguistics scholar who specialized in Mayan epigraphy.

Bowditch was born in Boston into the Massachusetts Bowditch family of mathematician Nathaniel Bowditch, his grandfather, and physiologist Henry Pickering Bowditch, his brother,[1] son of Jonathan Ingersoll Bowditch and Lucy Orme Nichols.[2][3] He received his undergraduate degree in 1863 and his master's in 1866, both from Harvard University.[4] During the American Civil War he served as an officer in the 55th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, a colored regiment,[5] rising to the rank of captain, and then served as a captain in the 5th Massachusetts Volunteer Cavalry, also a colored regiment.[6] In 1866, he married Cornelia L. Rockwell who bore him four children who survived him.[4] He died in 1921 in Jamaica Plains, Massachusetts, and was buried with a Unitarian service.[7]

As a businessman Bowditch participated unsuccessfully in the Pennsylvania oil rush[8] and returned to Massachusetts to manage the estate of Mrs. William Wadsworth, which gave him experience as a financial trustee. He went on to manage many trusts, was a director of the Massachusetts Cotton Mills and the Pepperell Manufacturing Company, the Boston and Providence Railroad Company, American Bell Telephone Company, and a director and later president of the Massachusetts Hospital Life Insurance Company. For three years he was vice-president of the American Bell Telephone Company.[9]

In 1888, Bowditch took a trip to the Yucatán and southern Mexico and became interested in the Mayan culture.[4] While he funded much Mayan research, his own Mayan work focused on deciphering Mayan epigraphy and their calendar system.[10] He was one of the founders of the American Anthropological Association.[11] In 1891 Bowditch was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society.[12]

Harvard and the Peabody Museum[edit]

Bowditch made his first donation to Harvard's Peabody Museum in 1888, and during his life was its largest contributor.[4] Beginning in 1891, Bowditch funded numerous expeditions to the Mayan areas of Central America through the museum, almost one per year until his death. In 1894 he was elected a trustee of the museum and served on its faculty. On his death he left a large collection of books and other materials on the languages of Central America and Mexico to the museum.[1]

Among the expeditions that Bowditch funded were those of:[4]

Bowditch endowed a chair (a professorship) at Harvard in archaeology.


Bowditch was treasurer of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences from 1905 to 1915 and went on to serve as president from 1917 to 1919.

Selected works[edit]

  • Mexican and Central American antiquities, calendar systems, and history (1904)
  • The Numeration, Calendar Systems and Astronomical Knowledge of the Mayans (1910)
  • Bacon's Connection with the First Folio of Shakespeare
  • Translation of Landa's Relación de las cosas de Yucatán
  • Translation of Avendaño's Relación



  1. ^ a b Barnhart, Clarence L., ed. (1954). "Bowditch, Charles Pickering". New Century Cyclopedia of Names, Volume One, A – Emin Pasha. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts. p. 605.
  2. ^ "Charles P. Bowditch Family Papers, 1849–1952, Guide to the Collection". Massachusetts Historical Society. Archived from the original on March 13, 2011.
  3. ^ Storey, Moorfield (1923). "Memoir of Charles Pickering Bowditch". Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society. 56: 306–315. JSTOR 25080146.
  4. ^ a b c d e Tozzer, Alfred M. (1921). "Charles Pickering Bowditch". American Anthropologist. 23: 353–359. doi:10.1525/aa.1921.23.3.02a00060.
  5. ^ Storey 1923, p. 308
  6. ^ Storey 1923, p. 309
  7. ^ "Funeral Services for Charles P. Bowditch". The Boston Globe. June 4, 1921. p. 14, column 2.
  8. ^ Storey 1923, p. 310
  9. ^ Storey 1923, p. 311
  10. ^ Stuart, David (2011). The Order of Days: The Maya World and the Truth About 2012. New York: Crown. pp. 153–154. ISBN 978-0-307-72081-8.
  11. ^ Storey 1923, p. 312
  12. ^ American Antiquarian Society Members Directory

External links[edit]