HUNTINGTON, ELLSWORTH, American geographer (1876-1947), b. Galesburg, Ill.; grad. Beloit College, 1897; M.A. Harvard, 1902; Ph.D. Yale, 1909. After graduation, Huntington first worked at the small Euphrates College, Harput, Turkey (1897-1901). He visited Central Asia in 1903, when he was appointed by the Carnegie Institution of Washington to assist Professor William M. Davis of Harvard in the physiographic work of an expedition to Russian Turkestan led by Raphael Pumpelly from May 1903 to July 1904. In 1905 he was invited to join Robert L. Barrett on a second Central Asian expedition. Starting from India in February 1905, he traveled through Kashmir and the Himalayas, arriving in Chinese Turkestan in June. He visited Khotan, Domoko, Khadalik, and Niya; crossing the Lop Nor, he reached Turfan in March 1906 and returned home via Siberia and Russia the following May. During his journey he collected extensive data on geographical features and archeological sites, where he incidentally acquired several manuscripts and wooden documents in Kharoṣṭhī, Tibetan, Sanskrit, and Khotanese (some of them illustrated in Huntington, 1907, facing pp. 204, 206). For the interpretation of his manuscript finds, Huntington sought the help of others, such as the Sanskritist and Tibetologist F. W. Thomas, to whom he sent part of his collection for examination (van Schaik, 2000).

After a short teaching period at Yale (1907-13), Huntington became a research associate there and, except for occasional engagements elsewhere, including an expedition to Palestine in 1909, concentrated on research and writing. His earlier publications, resulting from his travels in Asia, were primarily concerned with the influence of climate on civilization. From climatology, his research interests extended to heredity, eugenics, and education. Criticized today for his views on environmental determinism, he nevertheless exercised a great influence on his contemporaries. During his career he wrote 28 books, part of 29 others, and over 240 articles. His extensive field notes, photographic negative files, and papers were donated by his wife to Yale University Library. His small collection of Oriental manuscripts is now divided between the Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library; the Tozzer Library, Harvard University College Library; and the British Library, London. Most of the Khotanese manuscripts were published by Harold W. Bailey in his Khotanese Texts V; some of those at Yale were published by Ronald E. Emmerick (1968, 1969); those in London are included in Skjærvø (2002).



Biography. G. J. Martin, Ellsworth Huntington: His Life and Thought, Hamden, Conn., 1973.

S. van Schaik, “Ellsworth Huntington and the Central Asian Manuscripts at Yale,” IDP [International Dunhuang Project] News 17, Winter, 2000/2001, p. 4.

Obituary by S. van Valkenburg in The Geographical Review 38, no. 1, 1948, pp. 153-55.

Central Asian expedition reports and archival sources. R. Pumpelly, ed., Explorations in Turkestan, with an Account of the Basin of Eastern Persia and Sistan, Washington, D.C., 1905.

E. Huntington, The Pulse of Asia. A Journey in Central Asia Illustrating the Geographic Basis of History, London, Boston, and New York, 1907.

Xu Xinjiang, ed., Jindai Waiguo Tanxianjia Xinjiang Kaogu Dang’an Shiliao = Modern Historical Material about Foreign Explorers in Xinjiang, Urumqi, 2001.

Studies of Iranian manuscripts in the Huntington Collection. R. E. Emmerick, The Book of Zambasta: A Khotanese Poem on Buddhism, Oxford, 1968, pp. xii, xix, 120-21.

Idem, “The Khotanese Manuscript ‘Huntington K’,” Asia Major 15, 1969, pp. 1-16.

E. Leumann, “Bibliographische Notizen über zwei nordarische und zwei sanskritische Fragmente,” ZDMG 67, 1913, pp. 679-80.

P. O. Skjærvø, The Khotanese Manuscripts from Chinese Turkestan in the British Library. A Complete Catalogue with Texts and Translations, London, 2002.

(Ursula Sims-Williams)

Originally Published: December 15, 2004

Last Updated: March 23, 2012

This article is available in print.
Vol. XII, Fasc. 6, pp. 580-581