Colin Turnbull

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Colin Macmillan Turnbull (November 23, 1924 – July 28, 1994) was a British-American anthropologist who came to public attention with the popular books The Forest People (on the Mbuti Pygmies of Zaire) and The Mountain People (on the Ik people of Uganda), and one of the first anthropologists to work in the field of ethnomusicology.


Early life

Turnbull was born in London and educated at Westminster School and Magdalen College, Oxford where he studied politics and philosophy. During World War II he was in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve after which he was awarded a two year grant in the Department of Indian Religion and Philosophy, Banaras Hindu University, India, from which he graduated with a master's degree in Indian Religion and Philosophy.


In 1951, after his graduation from Banaras, he traveled to the Belgian Congo (present-day Democratic Republic of the Congo) with Newton Beal, a schoolteacher from Ohio he met in India. Turnbull and Beal first studied the BaMbuti pygmies during this time, though that was not the complete goal of the trip.

An "odd job" Turnbull picked up while in Africa at this time was working for the Hollywood producer Sam Spiegel. Spiegel hired Turnbull to assist in the construction and transportation of a boat needed for his film. This boat was the African Queen, which was used for the feature film The African Queen (starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn; 1951).[1] After his first trip to Africa, Turnbull traveled to Yellowknife in the northwest territories of Canada, where he worked as a geologist and gold miner for approximately a year,[2] before he went back to school to obtain another degree.

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