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Biographical Memoirs: Volume 90
BENJAMIN IRVING ROUSE
August 29, 1913–February 4, 2006
BY WILLIAM F. KEEGAN
HIS FRIENDS AND COLLEAGUES KNEW HIM as “Ben.” As he explained it, “My dad was Irving Rouse. I’m Ben” (in Drew, 2006), yet in all of his publications he used the name Irving Rouse. Like Christopher Columbus he “discovered” the native peoples of the Caribbean, and through his work our understanding of these peoples has been enhanced greatly. Moreover, the results of his research usually were published in a timely manner, and the notes and detailed drawings form an important corpus of data that is as useful today as it was 50 years ago. Ben’s book The Tainos: Rise and Declineof the People Who Greeted Columbus (1992) has been hugely popular and widely read, and introduced the archaeology of this region to numerous people who otherwise might not be interested.
Ben was born in Rochester, New York, on August 29, 1913. His father, who also graduated from Yale, owned a nursery, and Ben grew up with an interest in plants. He began his career at Yale in 1930; he was 17 years old. His undergraduate work was in plant science, and he intended to go into forestry. As he describes it, he took the $500 his family gave him for school and put it in the bank. But this