Henry Otley Beyer was born on the 13th of July, 1883 in Edgewood, Iowa. He attended Iowa State College where he earned his B.A. degree in 1904. He furthered his studies by attaining a M.A. degree in Chemistry at the University of Denver, Colorado in 1905. His passion for Anthropology escalated in 1904 when he visited the Louisiana Purchase Centennial Exposition that took place in Saint Louis. It was also this exposition that earned him a life-time involvement with the Philippines. As Beyer was determined to go to the Philippines, he decided to join the Philippine Ethnological Survey in July of 1905. At that particular time, there was a Philippine Reorganization Act which relocated the Ethnological Survey's office to the Bureau of Education. The head of the Bureau of Education, David P. Barrows permitted Beyer to travel to the Philippines and conduct a study among the Ifugaos. A month after his appointment to the Philippine Ethnological Survey, he moved to Manila. There, he carried on with his intended purpose until 1908.
On his return to the U.S. in 1908, Beyer enrolled in a graduate program which he completed in one year at Harvard University. In 1909, the Philippine Bureau of Science appointed him as an Ethnologist. After his appointment as an Ethnologist, he returned to the Philippines in 1910. He worked there for a period of five years. During his presence there, he did field work on the Ifugaos, Igorots, Apayaos, Kalingas, and the Christian peoples of Ilocos, Pangasinan, and Pampanga. In addition to the field work, he also prepared historical documents. He later called the compilation of both the field works and historical documents the Philippine Ethnographic Series. He also contributed efforts towards the preservation of ethnological excavations from Luzon and Mindanao at the Philippine Museum.
By 1914, Beyer was among the founding members of the Anthropology department at the University of the Philippines. In 1925, he was made the head of the Anthropology department. During his years in the university, he became archaeologically and prehistorically oriented after the 1926 discovery of the Novaliches dam site. He then founded the university's Museum and Institute of Archaeological Ethnology where he preserved his collections which included; artifacts, stoneware, prehistoric tools, jewelry, Chinese ceramics, and tektites. Then by the year 1947, he retired.
Before his death, the University of the Philippines, Silliman and Ateneo de Manila awarded him with honorary doctorates. Also, commemorations in volumes were published to honor his dedication to the Philippines by three prominent universities namely Ateneo de Manila, San Carlos University in Cebu City and the University of the Philippines. Students, both international and graduate, still relied on him for assistance even though he was getting old.
Beyer died while in the Philippines on December 31st, 1966 at the age of 83. He would forever be remembered in the Philippines as he was a great anthropologist, archaeologist, and prehistorian.
Dutton S. Lee, International Dictionary of Anthropology, Garland Publishing: New York, 1991
Zamora D. Mario, American Anthropologist: Pg 361-362, Henry Beyer, 1974
Written By: Ademuyiwa Ogunseye, 2003