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Biographical entry Geddes, William Robert (Bill) (1916 - 1989)

29 April 1916
New Plymouth, New Zealand
27 April 1989
Wahroonga, New South Wales, Australia


Bill Geddes was an anthropologist who viewed the discipline as an important force for tolerance and cross-cultural understanding. His principle interests lay with the ethnic minorities of Southeast Asia and he made major studies of the Dayaks of Sarawak and the hill tribesmen of northern Thailand. In 1964 -1965 he was advisor to the Tribal Research Centre, set up by the Thai Government, which ultimately embroiled him in controversy about the use to which governments might put data gathered during such surveys. As Professor of Anthropology at the University of Sydney he extended the Department's focus beyond Oceania to include Asia, broadened it to include archaeology and prehistory, and made anthropology available to first year students. Geddes was a skilled still and cinematic photographer. His appreciation of the importance of film in recording vanishing ways of life caused him to make a number of highly-regarded films.



Education - BA, University of Otago, New Zealand
Education - MA, University of Otago, New Zealand
1939 - 1940
Career position - Demonstrator, Department of Psychology, University of Otago, New Zealand
1941 - 1945
Career position - Service with New Zealand armed forces
1947 - 1948
Career position - Lecturer in Psychology, Birbeck College, London
Education - PhD, University of London
1949 - 1951
Career position - Sociology Research Officer, Sarawak
1951 - 1953
Career position - Lecturer in Anthropology, University of Auckland
1954 - 1956
Career position - Senior Lecturer, University of Auckland
Award - Wellcome Medal, Royal Anthropological Institute
1957 - 1958
Career position - Associate Professor, University of Auckland
1959 - 1981
Career position - Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Sydney
Career position - President, Australian Anthropological Association
Career position - President, Section F, Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science
1964 - 1970
Career position - Chairman, Foundation for Aboriginal Affairs
1975 - 1977
Career position - Head, Department of Anthropology, University of Sydney
Life event - Retired

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Journal Articles

  • Sandall, Roger, 'Bill Geddes and ethnographic films', Anthropology Today, 8 (2) (1992), 22-3. Details
  • Wright, Richard, 'William Robert Geddes (1916 - 1989)', Oceania, 60 (1) (1989), 60-1. Details


Helen Cohn