Elkin, Adolphus Peter

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ELKIN, ADOLPHUS PETER (1891–1979), Australian anthropologist. Born in Maitland, New South Wales, Elkin began his fieldwork in the mid-1920s among the Australian aborigines and was one of the founders of anthropology in Australia. In 1934 he joined the faculty of the University of Sydney and became the chairman of its department of anthropology, remaining until 1956. During this time he did fieldwork in all parts of Australia, as well as in New Guinea and other areas of Oceania, and wrote on the rapidly disappearing aborigines of these areas. His books include The Australian Aborigines (19543) and Marriage and the Family in Australia (1957). He became editor of the anthropology journal Oceania in 1933.

Elkin made great efforts to better the condition of the aboriginal peoples of Australia and New Guinea, and to improve relations between them and the white populations of these areas. From 1933 to 1962 he was president of the Association for the Protection of Native Races. Although Elkin's father, Reuben Israel Elkin, was Jewish, his mother was a Christian and, it should be noted, Elkin apparently regarded himself as an Anglican. He was married as an Anglican and for some years after 1919 was vice warden of St. Johns Theological College, Armadale, New South Wales, an Anglican institution.


R.M. Berndt and C.H. Berndt (eds.), Aboriginal Man in Australia (1965), 453–70 (incl. bibl.). add. bibliography: Australian Dictionary of Biography.

[Ephraim Fischoff /

William D. Rubinstein (2nd ed.)]