Ben Finney

Ben Finney

Ben Rudolph Finney (born 1933) is an American anthropologist known for his expertise in the history and cultural and social anthropology of surfing, Polynesian navigation and canoe sailing, and in the cultural and social anthropology of human space colonization. As “surfing’s premier historian and leading expert on Hawaiian surfing going back to the 17th century”cite web |url= |title= Riding Waves Two Thousand Years Ago |author= Glenn Hening |work= Groundswell Society |format= pdf |date= 14 April 2004 ] and “the intellectual mentor, driving force, and international public face” of the "Hokulea" project,cite web |url= |title= "Sailing in the Wake of the Ancestors: Reviving Polynesian Voyaging" (Book review) |author= [ Atholl Anderson] |work= Asian Perspectives: the Journal of Archaeology for Asia and the Pacific, Vol. 45, No. 1 |date= March 2006 ] he has played a key role in the Hawaiian Renaissance since his construction of the "Hokulea" precursor "Nalehia" cite web |url= |title= Building a Dream |author= Gary T. Kubota |work= Honolulu Star-Bulletin |date= 7 July 2006 [ Full article] (PDF) with photographs and diagrams. ] in the 1960s and his co-founding of the Polynesian Voyaging Society [ Brief History] of the Polynesian Voyaging Society on the PVS website.] in the 1970s.

A character in "Launch Out," a Philip Robert Harris science fiction novel which is set in the year 2010,Univelt [ book review] of Philip R. Harris, "Launch Out." Haverford: Infinity Publishing, 2003. ISBN 0-74141-487-2. ASIN|0741414872. (Page 372: “Dr. Ben Finney still maintained an office at the University of Hawaii. The distinguished anthropologist and author of "From Sea to Space" had been an ideal selection for the Unispace presidential post.”)] is based on Dr. Finney: a University of Hawaii professor of anthropology who is also the President of the fictional Unispace Academy.


The son of a United States Navy pilot, Ben Finney grew up in San Diego, California.Edward Regis, "Great Mambo Chicken and the Transhuman Condition: Science Slightly Over the Edge" (pp. 230-233, Chapter 7: “Hints for the Better Operation of the Universe”). Reading: Addison-Wesley, 1990. ISBN 0-20156-751-2.] He earned his B.A. in history, economics and anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley in 1955. In 1958, after serving in the U.S. Navy and working in the steel and aerospace industries, he went to Hawaii, where he earned his M.A. in anthropology at the University of Hawaii in 1959. His master's degree thesis, “Hawaiian Surfing: a Study of Cultural Change”, [Cited in Geoffrey M White and Ty Kawika Tengan, [ "Disappearing Worlds: Anthropology and Cultural Studies in Hawai'i and the Pacific] " (Project MUSE). "The Contemporary Pacific." v.13, n.2 (2001) 381-416.] became the basis for "Surfing: The Sport of Hawaiian Kings," a book which Finney co-authored in 1966 with James D. Houston.cite web |url= |title= Intimate Dance |author= Rick Kleffel |work= Metro Silicon Valley |date= interview with James D. Houston, April 2007 ] Finney earned his Ph.D. in anthropology at Harvard University in 1964.

Finney has held faculty appointments at the University of California, Santa Barbara,Helke Ferrie. [ An interview] with C. Loring Brace. "Current Anthropology," Vol. 38, No. 5, December 1997, pp. 851-869.] the Australian National University, the University of French Polynesia,cite web |url= |title= Ben Finney Lecture: The Way to Tahiti — Ke Ala i Kahiki |work= Auckland War Memorial Museum Public Programmes for the [ Vaka Moana] Exhibition |date= 14 December 2006 |quote= ] and the International Space University. International Space University. [ ISU Space and Society Department] . [ ISU Faculty] . ] From 1970 through 2000 he was a professor of anthropology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where his courses included Human Adaptation to the Sea and Human Adaptation to Living in Space. From 1994 through 2003 he was the co-chair of the department of Space and Society at the International Space University.

In the 1990s, Dr. Finney was a National Research Council Associate with the SETI projectcite web |url= |title= Universal Translator Might be Needed to Understand ET |author= Douglas Vakoch |work= SETI Institute |date= 27 January 2005 ] at NASA Ames Research Center and involved in the Sandia National Laboratories planning and implementation of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant for the disposal of nuclear waste.cite web |url= |title= A Portrait of Humanity |author= Jon Lomberg, Design Director for NASA's Voyager Golden Record |work= Jon Lomberg website |date= 2007 |quote= ] cite web |url=,000%20a_d.htm |title= Excerpts |author= Sandia National Laboratories |work= Expert Judgment on Markers to Deter Inadvertent Human Intrusion into the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant report SAND92-1382 / UC-721, p. F-49 |quote= ] He was on the panel of experts for the 1998 PBS program "Wayfinders: A Pacific Odyssey".cite web |url= |title= Ask The Experts |author= Public Broadcasting Service |work= [ Wayfinders: A Pacific Odyssey] |date= 1998 |quote= ] In 2004-2006 he was a curator of the Vaka Moana canoe voyaging exhibit at New Zealand's Auckland Museum.Auckland Museum, [ Vaka Moana: The Untold Story of the World's Greatest Exploration] (8 December 20068 April 2007).] He was the featured guest speaker at the 2007 National Conference for Educational Robotics.cite web |url= |title= July 2007 National Conference on Educational Robotics |work= [ KISS Institute for Practical Robotics] Botball website ]

Currently an emeritus professor at UHM,cite web |url= |title= Ben Finney, Professor Emeritus |work= University of Hawaii at Manoa faculty page ] Finney is also a distinguished research associate of the Bishop Museum.cite web |url= |title= Authors: Ben Finney |author= Bishop Museum Press ] He and his wife Mila live most of the year in Hawaii.

Polynesian voyaging

When Ben Finney was a University of Hawaii graduate student in 1958, working toward his master of arts degree and writing his dissertation on surfing, scholars were not yet in agreement that any canoe voyages over great distances on the Pacific Ocean had been intentional.cite web |url= |title= Kawika Kapahulehua; famed captain sailed from Hawaii to Tahiti |author= Douglas Martin |work= The San Diego Union-Tribune |date= 3 June 2007 ] The prevailing view was exemplified by Andrew Sharp,cite web |url= |title= Heyerdahl and Sharp |author= Public Broadcasting Service |work= Wayfinders: A Pacific Odyssey |date= 1998 ] a New Zealand historian with a low opinion of Polynesian navigation methods and canoes, who believed that such voyages could only have been accidental.

Finney did not agree with this view and became determined to disprove it. He built the first 40-foot replica Polynesian sailing canoe while he was teaching at UC Santa Barbara in the 1960s. When it was finished, he shipped it to Hawaii, where ancient Hawaii scholar Mary Kawena Pukui named it "Nalehia," which in the Hawaiian language means "The Skilled Ones," for the grace with which its twin hulls rode the sea.

In 1973, Finney co-founded the Polynesian Voyaging Society with artist Herb Kawainui Kane and sailor Charles Tommy Holmes. Within three years, they had designed, built, and sailed the ".


The awardscite web |url= |title= Staff and Faculty Activities |author= University of Hawaii at Manoa Center for Pacific Islands Studies |work= Pacific News from Mānoa, No. 3, July-September 1997 ] which have been bestowed upon Dr. Finney include:

* 1994: Royal Institute of Navigation Bronze Medal for the outstanding paper, "Rediscovering Polynesian Navigation through Experimental Voyaging" in the "Journal of Navigation," Vol 46, 1993.

* 1995: French University of the Pacific Medal for contributions to the revival of traditional voyaging and the study of Polynesian culture and society.

* 1995: Tsiolkovsky State Museum of the History of Cosmonautics Tsiolkovsky Medal for contributions to the study of cosmonautics and the exploration of space.

* 1997: University of Hawai'i Regents' Medal for Excellence in Research.

* 2004 Hawai'i Book Publisher's Ka Palapala Po'okela Award for writing non-fiction

* 2007 Honorary Doctorate, University of French Polynesia


(These are incomplete listings.)

Selected books

* 1966: "Surfing: The Sport of Hawaiian Kings." With James D. Houston. Tokyo and Rutland: Charles E. Tuttle Company. ISBN 0-80480-557-1.:* 1996 30th anniversary edition: "Surfing: A History of the Ancient Hawaiian Sport." Petaluma: Pomegranate Communications. ISBN 0-87654-594-0.

* 1976: "Pacific Navigation and Voyaging." Auckland, New Zealand: The Polynesian Society. ISBN 0-82480-584-4.

* 1979: "Hokulea: The way to Tahiti." New York: Dodd, Mead and Company. ISBN 0-39607-719-6.

* 1985: "Interstellar Migration and the Human Experience."Ben R. Finney and Eric M. Jones, “The Exploring Animal” (from p. 15) in "Interstellar Migration and the Human Experience." “We "homo sapiens" are by nature wanderers, the inheritors of an exploring and colonizing bent that is deeply embedded in our evolutionary past… What makes us different from other expansionary species is our ability to adapt to new habitats through technology: We invent tools and devices that enable us to spread into areas for which we are not biologically adapted… However, it is not simply the technological ability to build spaceships, life support systems, and the like that will drive the expansion into space. Whereas technology gives us the capacity to leave Earth, it is the explorer's bent, embedded deep in our biocultural nature, that is leading us to the stars.”] Ben R. Finney and Eric M. Jones,cite web |url= |title= Who is Eric Jones? |author= Eric M. Jones |work= Apollo Lunar Surface Journal ] eds. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-52005-898-4.

* 1992: "From Sea to Space (The Macmillan Brown Lectures 1989)." Palmerston North: Massey University. Distributed by the University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 0-90866-559-8.

* 1994: "Voyage of Rediscovery: A Cultural Odyssey through Polynesia." Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-52008-002-5.

* 2003: "Sailing in the Wake of the Ancestors: Reviving Polynesian Voyaging." Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press. ISBN 1-58178-025-7.

elected articles

* 1977: "Voyaging Canoes and the Settlement of Polynesia" "Science," Vol. 196, No. 4296:1277-1285.

* 1981: "Exploring and Settling Pacific Ocean Space—Past Analogues for Future Events?"cite web |url= |title= Table of Contents |author= Jerry Grey and Lawrence A. Ham Dan, eds |work= Space Manufacturing 4: Proceedings of the Fifth Princeton/AIAA Conference, May 18-21, 1981 |publisher= Space Studies Institute |quote= ] "Space Manufacturing 4: Proceedings of the Fifth Princeton/AIAA Conference May 18-21, 1981" (p. 261). New York: American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

* 1988: "Voyaging Against the Direction of the Trades: A Report of a Canoe Voyage from Samoa to Tahiti." "American Anthropologist," Vol. 90, No. 2:401-405.

* 1991: "Myth, Experiment, and the Reinvention of Polynesian Voyaging."cite web |url= |title= Myth, Experiment, and the Reinvention of Polynesian Voyaging |author= Ben Finney |work= American Anthropologist, Vol. 93, No. 2, pp. 383-404 |date= June 1991 ] "American Anthropologist," Vol. 93, No. 2, June 1991, pp. 383-404.

* 1994: "The Other One-Third of the Globe."cite web |url= |title= The Other One-Third of the Globe |author= Ben Finney |work= Journal of World History, Vol. 5, No. 2, 1994 |format= pdf |publisher= University of Hawaii Press ] "Journal of World History," Vol. 5, No. 2.

* 1994: "Polynesian Voyagers to the New World." "Man and Culture in Oceania," Vol. 10:1-13.

* 1995: "A role for Magnetoreception in Human Navigation."cite web |url= |title= A Role for Magnetoreception in Human Navigation? |author= Ben Finney |work= Current Anthropology, Vol. 36, No. 3, June 1995, pp. 500-506 |quote= ] "Current Anthropology," Vol. 36, No. 3:500-506.

* 2001: "Voyage to Polynesia's Land's End." "Antiquity", Vol. 75:172-181.

* 2007: "Tracking Polynesian Seafarers." "Science," Vol. 317:1873-1874.

elected chapters in other books

* 1985: "Lunar Base: Learning to live in space" (pp. 731-756) in Wendell Mendell, ed., "Lunar Bases and Space Activities of the 21st Century." Houston: Lunar and Planetary Institute. ISBN 0-894-64011-9.

* 1988: "Will space change humanity?" (pp. 155-172) in J. Schneider and M. Leger-Orine, eds., "Frontiers and Space Conquest: The Philosopher's Touchstone." Bingham: Kluwer Academic Press. ISBN 9-02772-741-4.

* 2007: Three chapters in "Vaka Moana, Voyages of the Ancestors: The Discovery and Settlement of the Pacific.""Vaka Moana, Voyages of the Ancestors: The Discovery and Settlement of the Pacific." Companion book for the Exhibition [ Vaka Moana: The Untold Story of the World's Greatest Exploration] at the Auckland War Memorial Museum, 8 December 2006 through 8 April 2007.] Kerry Howe (Massey University School of Social and Cultural Studies), ed. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 978-0-82483-213-1.

* 2007: "Polynesia, Micronesia and Eastern Melanesia: the Exploration and Settlement of Remote Oceania." In "The Oxford Encyclopedia of Maritime History", John Hattendorf, editor in chief. "The Oxford Encyclopedia of Maritime History". Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. ISBN 0-19513-075-8. ] Volume 3, pages 154-162. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Further reading

* Malcolm Gault-Williams. [ "Legendary Surfers: Surfing from an Historical and Cultural Viewpoint, 2500 B.C. to the Present"] (Volumes 1 through 8).

* Colin Jack-Hinton. [ "A compass can go wrong, the stars never."] " [ Oceania] ," an academic journal published by the University of Sydney, December 1995.

* Tom Harris. [ "The real reason we're in space: Space travel is a social activity."] "The Globe and Mail," 31 May 1999.

* Ellen Barry. [ "Settling the Galaxy."] "The Boston Globe," 19 March 2002.

* P. J. Capelotti. [ "Space: The Final Archaeological Frontier."] "Archaeology," Vol. 57, No. 6, Nov/Dec 2004.

* David Tenenbaum. [ An Island Too Far?] "The Why Files: Science Behind the News." 27 September 2007.

External links

* [ Ben Finney, Professor Emeritus.] University of Hawaii at Manoa faculty page.

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