Created: 18 November 2000
Modified: 19 July 2021

Gerhardt Kurt Laves 
15 July 1906 – 14 March 1993

additional biographical notes

When Gerhardt Laves was born, his parents were living at 5611 Kenwood (previously Monroe). This is a 3-floor residence in a brick row-house, known as ‘professors row’, which had been bulit in 1903; it is pictured in Jean F Block's Hyde Park Houses (University of Chicago Press, 1978), on the rear dust-jacket and in Plate 62. (NB: entry on page 120 is in error: opposite '5611' should be 'Kurt Laves'). This was the Laves family house until soon after Gerhardt returned from Australia in 1932.

Gerhardt attended William H. Ray Public School (an imposing brick elementary school in the 5600 of Kimbark), and then University of Chicago Laboratory School (58th St).


Student at the University of Chicago, Department of Anthropology; completed a Master's 1929 (thesis on Malaysian society), including linguistics under Edward Sapir at Chicago, c192729. (Edward Sapir biographies, by S Anderson, and by Regna Darnell and Judith T. Irvine)

1928: at Folsom archaeological dig, in photo page 89 Folsom: New archaeological investigations of a classic paleoindian bison kill by David J. Meltzer (University of California Press, 2006) extract from group portrait

c1930 Portrait

1929–31: linguistic field work in Australia.  For general background on this period in Australian anthropology, see for instance this article and the references therein:

Gray, Geoffrey. 1997. 'Mr Neville did all in [his] power to assist me': AP Elkin, AO Neville and anthropological research in northwest Western Australia 1927-1928.  Oceania 68.1(Sept), 27–46.
1932 September: married Maxine Marion née Lichtenstein (1909–99, obituary)

1932: attended the 9th annual meeting of the Linguistic Society of America, 27–28 December, Yale University, New Haven. Listed in attendance Language 9.1(March 1933),104 Mentioned as meeting Benjamin Lee Whorf:

1932 December 27 … Register for Ling. Soc. meeting. See Sapir, get 2-rm apt. in Law School, supper Waldorf, meet Gerhardt Laves of Chicago & Australia, meeting, meet many others, interesting papers. [Whorf's private diary, held at Yale University Manuscripts and Archives, thanks to Penny Lee, who also notes "Whorf recordedLaves address simply as University of Chicago in the back of that diary"]

c1933–35: continued study under Edward Sapir at Yale

1934 November 23rd Fri. … Train to N.H. [New Haven] Make brief calls on Swadesh & Fenton, […] To Sapir’s meet Chick Sandoval, Navaho, supper there. Sapir interested in my Hopi morphology sketch & big phonology paper, now finished, takes both. Evg. Gerhart Laves & wife, & new fellow La Barr in. General talk. La Barr & I leave to go down town together. …
Thursday Oct 10 1935: … Then to Swadeshes, have supper with them & with Gerhardt & Maxine Laves & nice evening after. M.L. is a chemist & we talk on that. Also much ling. discussion. Miss Montreal train, wait in NH sta. till 2 AM reading Yokuts sketch; train to Hfd [Hartford] & taxi to house. [Whorf's private diary]
Notes and Personalia. Language Vol. 10, No. 4 (Dec., 1934), pp. 386-390
p.390: "Gerhardt Laves has left the University of Chicago to accept a position in the Department of Anthropology at Yale University."
Notes and Personalia. Language Vol. 11, No. 1 (Mar., 1935), pp. 50-52
p.52: "Mr. Gerhardt Laves is now a graduate student at Yale.  Correct accordingly in our last issue."       

Linguistic Society of America, annual List of members, 1934–1937
Language Vol. 11, No. 1 (Mar., 1935), p.78
"1933 Mr. Gerhardt Laves, 46 Mt. View Terrace, Spring Glen, New Haven, Conn.  (Anthropology, Yale Univ.)"
Language Vol. 12, No. 1, Bulletin No. 9 (Jan., 1936), p.35;
Language Vol. 13, No. 1, Bulletin No. 10 (Jan., 1937), p.36;
Language Vol. 14, No. 1, Bulletin No. 11 (Jan., 1938), p.38
"1933 Mr. Gerhardt Laves, M.A., Torreon Community Center, Crown Point, New Mexico; Australian and American Indian languages."

Laves and his family spent 1935-39 in New Mexico, teaching in Navajo schools.  In the JP Harrington correspondence Laves in 1938-39 is described as "Teacher, Shiprock Boarding School & Wingate Vocational High School" in Navajo country.

Returned to Chicago 1939, and lived at 5525 S Kimbark (now demolished) until about 1943, then at 1359 E 57th St until 15 July 1947 when the family moved to 5553 Kenwood.

Laves and his family lived from 1947 at 5553 Kenwood in the Hyde Park area of Chicago, adjacent to the University of Chicago.  It was in the basement of this house that Laves' notes on Australian languages were stored for decades before they were sent to Canberra.

Chicago Tribune obituary 7 April 1993 by Kenan Heise

Comments welcome

Laves page

© 2017 David Nash