Geographic Connection to Pennsylvania: Philadelphia, Philadelphia County
Through his talents as an author, Eisley worked to teach lay people about the worlds of anthropology, archaeology, and biology.
Poet and anthropologist Loren Corey Eiseley was born in Nebraska in 1907. He earned degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and later become a professor there. He wrote both for professional and general audiences in magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post. Eiseley died in Philadelphia in 1977.
Loren Corey Eiseley was born September 3, 1907, in Lincoln, Nebraska. His parents were Clyde Edwin, an amateur actor and salesman, and Daisy Eiseley, an artist. As a child, Eiseley spent a large amount of time exploring the nature of Nebraska and visiting the University of Nebraska Museum to escape the stresses of his family’s financial instability and his mother’s disability. His mother was deaf and Eiseley once wrote that she was “on the brink of mental collapse.” Eiseley married Mabel Langdon on August 29, 1938. The couple had no children.
Eiseley attended the University of Nebraska, where he spent eight years balancing academics and coping with physical and psychological problems. Eiseley’s father died in 1928, causing great mental trauma in Eisley’s life. However, during this time, Eiseley took many steps toward the start of his successful career as a writer and anthropologist. Eiseley participated in his first archaeological dig, wrote and published poetry for the first time, and discovered his interest in nature. He received his BA in 1933 and later earned an MA from the University of Pennsylvania in 1935 and a PhD in 1937.
Eiseley received his first job as an associate professor of sociology and anthropology at the University of Kansas in 1937. Eiseley continued to work as a professor for the majority of his career and was promoted to be a chairman for various academic programs. He was also a provost of the University of Pennsylvania from 1959 to 1961. Eiseley also worked as a curator of the early man exhibition at the University of Pennsylvania Museum. He held various anthropological positions for 20 years before publishing his first novel, The Immense Journey (1957), at age 50.
Eiseley is well known as a writer, an anthropologist, a sociologist, and a naturalist. During his life, he published several novels and poetry collections. Eiseley is often noted for his unique writing style that he explained as a "concealed essay,” in which he used anecdotes to observe scientific subjects. Many of his novels are collections of these essays. Additionally, Eiseley published numerous essays in magazines such as Harper’s Magazine, Scientific American, The American Scholar, Science, and The Saturday Evening Post. Two years before his death, Eiseley published the autobiography All the Strange Hours (1975).
Eiseley received many awards for his writing and work during his life, and his work is still admired today. He received multiple awards for his second novel, Darwin’s Century: Evolution and the Men Who Discovered It (1958), including the Phi Beta Kappa prize for the best book in science. In addition to the awards he won for his publications, Eiseley’s work has been included in various anthologies. His work has also been translated and published in other countries. During his life, Eiseley was asked by numerous universities to give lectures about anthropology, sociology, and his experience as a writer. Eiseley was awarded more than 35 honorary degrees from various universities and colleges. After his death, Eiseley’s collection of books and other publications from his personal library were donated to the University of Pennsylvania. The university used the collection to dedicate the Loren Eiseley Seminar and Library on December 8, 1978, in Eiseley’s honor.
Loren Eiseley died on July 9, 1977, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from cardiac arrest following a series of operations.
The Immense Journey. New York: Random House, 1957
Darwin’s Century: Evolution and the Men Who Discovered It. Garden City: Doubleday, 1958.
The Firmament of Time. New York: Random House, 1957.
Francis Bacon and the Modern Dilemma. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1963.
The Unexpected Universe. New York: Harcourt, Brace, & World, 1969.
The Invisible Pyramid. New York: Scribner, 1970.
The Night Country. New York: Scribner, 1971.
All the Strange Hours: The Excavation of a Life. (Autobiography). New York: Scribner, 1975.
Notes of an Alchemist. New York: Scribner, 1972.
The Innocent Assassins. New York: Scribner, 1973.
Another Kind of Autumn. New York: Scribner, 1977.
All the Night Wings. New York: Times Books, 1979.
Blum, Howard. “Loren Eiseley, Anthropologist, 69; Eloquent Writer on Man and Nature.” New York Times. Late City Ed.: 28.
Eiseley, Loren. Afterword. All the Night Wings. New York: Times Books, 1979.
Eiseley, Loren. Afterword. The Firmament of Time. New York: Atheneum, 1960.
Garraty, John A. and Mark C. Carnes. eds. American National Biography. New York: Oxford Univeristy Press, 1999.
“Loren Corey Eiseley.” The Gale Literary Database: Contemporary Authors. 2002. 14 June 2002.
Serafin, Steven R. ed. Encyclopedia of American Literature. New York: Continuum, 1999.