Edward Burnett Tylor

Keeper of the University Museum and Professor in Anthropology, Oxford

The Natural History of Religion

In the first Gifford Lectures to be delivered at the University of Aberdeen, Tylor delivered two series of ten lectures. He spent the next ten years preparing them for publication; however, the intended book entitled, The Natural History of Religion, was never published. His ideas, by this time, had lost their currency, and his mental faculties had begun to fail him.


Edward Burnett Tylor was born on 2 October 1832 in Camberwell, England. He is chiefly known for creating the first anthropological definition of culture which was crucial in the development of anthropology as a science, and it has even been referred to as Mr Tylor’s science’. Regarded as the ‘father of anthropology’, he was the first to hold the chair in the subject at Oxford in 1896. Prior to this, he was a reader in anthropology in 1884. Tylor retired as Emeritus Professor in 1909.

Elected president of the Anthropological Society in 1891 and knighted in 1912, Tylor is best known for two works: Primitive Culture: Researches into the Development of Mythology, Philosophy, Religion, Art and Custom (1871) and Anthropology: An Introduction to the Study of Man and Civilization (1881). The latter became the classic textbook for the subject. Other works include Anahuac, or, Mexico and the Mexicans, Ancient and Modern (1861) and Researches into the Early History of Mankind and the Development of Civilization (1865).