Ernest Beaglehole

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Ernest Beaglehole
Born Ernest Beaglehole
(1906-08-25)25 August 1906
Wellington, New Zealand
Died 23 October 1965(1965-10-23) (aged 59)
Wellington, New Zealand
Residence UK
Citizenship New Zealand
Nationality New Zealander
Fields Psychology
Institutions United States Bureau of Indian Affairs
Alma mater Wellington College
Victoria University College
London School of Economics
Yale University
Known for Anthropology
Notable awards Commonwealth Fund Fellowship, Hector Memorial Medal

Ernest Beaglehole (25 August 1906 – 23 October 1965) was a New Zealand psychologist and ethnologist best known for his work in establishing an anthropological baseline for numerous Pacific Island cultures.

Early life and education[edit]

Beaglehole was born to David Ernest Beaglehole and Jane Butler in Wellington as the youngest of four children. He attended Mount Cook until he left for Wellington College. He continued on to the Victoria University College, where his abilities first began to receive some notice, and he completed his master's degree in 1928. He then traveled to London for his PhD work on acquisitiveness and the psychological basis of property.[1] While in London, Beaglehole met Pearl Maslin, a student from Wisconsin. After completing his PhD he was a recipient of the Commonwealth Fund Fellowship which funded his traveling to Yale for post-doctoral research. Pearl later joined him in New Haven and they were married on 24 May 1933.[2] It was at Yale that he met Peter Buck, a Professor at Yale University, who "arranged for the Beagleholes to go to Pukapuka, a remote northern Cook Islands atoll, as part of his comprehensive Pacific island ethnographic survey".[1]

Research and achievements[edit]

Beaglehole's work on Pacific Island cultures produced many books. Following his research in Pukapuka, he published Ethnology of Pukapuka in 1938. He and his wife continued this research, leading to the publication of Some Modern Hawaiians just a year later.[1] Beaglehole returned to the Victoria University College as a senior lecturer alongside his brother John Cawte Beaglehole, a noted researcher in his own right. Ernest was awarded a Doctorate in Letters in 1940, and in 1948 he was appointed chair of psychology and philosophy.

He continued his work throughout this period, publishing Some Modern Maoris as a follow-up to his previous work. He completed his scholarship in the field with the 1957 publication of Social Change in the South Pacific. Throughout his works he placed a great deal of emphasis on the facts of native cultures and the fading of these cultures over time.

Beaglehole's expertise was also called into practical use on multiple occasions during the 1950s. Most notably, Beaglehole was one of the primary authors of UNESCO's The Race Question, an international statement by sociologists about the unscientific and immoral nature of racism and race theories. He was later called upon by the ILO in various capacities, initially as a field adviser and leader and later as chairman of the ILO Committee of Experts on Indigenous Labor.[1]

Beaglehole died at the age of 59 in Wellington on 23 October 1965. He was survived by his wife Pearl and their four children.[2]

Awards and honors[edit]

  • Royal Society of New Zealand
  • Hector Memorial Medal and Prize
  • Polynesian Society
  • British Psychological Society
  • American Anthropological Association


  1. ^ a b c d Ritchie, James and Ritchie, Jane. "Beaglehole, Ernest". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 6 October 2014. 
  2. ^ a b Schnabel, Cristen (2007). Gardner, David, ed. "Ernest Beaglehole". Archived from the original on 28 May 2010.