In Memorium - David Rindos

by Hugh Jarvis

David Rindos, 49, died peacefully in his sleep, December 9, 1996, at home in Perth, Western Australia. Known in many social and academic circles for his scholarship, wit, and charm, he achieved worldwide notoriety for his tenure battles with the University of Western Australia.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1949, he had earned a baccalaureate in sociology from Cornell University by 1969. He then busied himself with the Volunteers in Service to America, New York Public Interest Research Group, catering, general contracting, and market gardening, before resuming a more traditional anthropological role as plaeoethnobotanist for the Alambra Project in Cyprus (1976) and Sula Valley Archaeological Project in Honduras (1977). Returning to Cornell, he received his master's degree in botany in 1980, and his doctorate in anthropology and evolutionary biology in 1981.

Over the next few years Rindos held teaching and research positions at Cornell, the University of Illinois, and the University of Missouri. While an Assistant Professor in the Department of Natural Science at Michigan State University in 1988, he took a fellowship at the Australian National University. It was there that he was aggressively recruited for the newly formed Archaeology Department at the University of Western Australia. Hired as Senior Lecturer and serving as acting chair, he brought his energetic teaching style and excellent scholarship to their program. Regrettably, he exposed improprieties that began a chain of events that brought the demise of that Department, but also denial of his tenure. Regrettably, his last few years were dominated with battles through successive levels of University, court, and finally government channels, bringing him notoriety but little peace.

Rindos' book, Origins of Agriculture (1984), achieved an award from Cornell and universal acclaim. He was likely the first to successfully apply neo-Darwinian theory to problems of cultural change, including one the great mystery of agriculture. His theoretical work on the origins of cultural capacity were a new means to understanding the human evolution, while his term "cultural selectionism" has been widely adopted to describe a new and rapidly growing analytic school. While active, he presented and published many papers on these topics, including a chapter in Archaeological Method and Theory, and several articles in Current Anthropology. He helped to found the World Archaeological Congress and was nominated to Sigma Xi. A requested speaker at national and international meetings in countries as diverse as the United States, England, the Netherlands, Australia, Russia, and India, he also gained attention outside of academia, including citations in Encyclopedia Britannica, lengthy discussion in the Illustrated History of Humankind, and coverage by major newspapers, radio, and television programs. In his last years, he was modeling the initial colonization of Australia and gathering support for an archaeological research institute for Western Australia.

While his scholarly interests included biological, ecological, and evolutionary anthropology, mathematical modeling, quantitative analysis, and the history and philosophy of science, he was equally renowned for his teaching, gardening, and culinary skills, as well as extensive activity on the Internet.

Rindos is survived by his covivant, David Goddard, his mother and brother, and his former wife and two children.