Biographical / Historical
Educated in his native Switzerland and in Germany (University of Bern; University of Berlin, Ph.D., 1892), early in his career Albert S. Gatschet pursued antiquarian research in European museums and wrote scientific articles. Among his projects was the study of the etymology of place names in Switzerland. After coming to the United States in 1869, he worked on the American Indian vocabularies collected by Oscar Loew of the United States Geographical Survey West of the 100th Meridian (Wheeler Survey). Eventually he was employed as an ethnologist with the United States Geographical and Geological Survey of the Rocky Mountain Regions (Powell Survey). He joined the staff of the Bureau of American Ethnology when it was founded in 1879 and continued there until he retired in 1905.
For the Powell Survey, Gatschet carried out research among the Klamath in Oregon and the Modoc in Oklahoma. He came to be used to collect material and investigate special problems for the classification of Indian languages of North America north of Mexico, working on languages of the Southeast, including groups settled in the southern Plains. In connection with this, he not only visited well known tribes but also searched out and studied small groups like, for example, the Biloxi and Tunica. He also worked with the Natchez, Tonkawa, Chitimacha, and Atakapa in the United States and the Comecrudo and several other small groups in northern Mexico. Through library research, he studied the Timucua, Karankara, and Beothuk. Duing the last part of his career, Gatschet was assigned the task of preparing a comparative work on all the Algonquian lanaguages. Although the project was never completed, he did collect considerable material in the field on many of the languages, including especially Peoria, Miami, and Shawnee. In addition, he worked with members of diverse tribes of the eastern United States.