Through Darkening Spectacles: Memoirs of Diamond Jenness

By Moore, Jacky | British Journal of Canadian Studies, September 2009 | Go to article overview

Through Darkening Spectacles: Memoirs of Diamond Jenness


Moore, Jacky, British Journal of Canadian Studies


Diamond Jenness and Stuart E. Jenness, Through Darkening Spectacles: Memoirs of Diamond Jenness (Gatineau: Canadian Museum of Civilization, 2008), xxvi + 407pp. Paper. ISBN 9780660198026.

This is a biographical account of the life and work of Diamond Jenness (1886-1969) drawn from his original detailed and personal manuscripts written during the last three years of his life, with a similar amount of material written by his son Stuart Jenness. It is the family's personal recollections and reflections, hitherto unpublished detail, that make this book very readable, adding insights about the long life of a very remarkable man. Stuart's descriptions and analysis of his father's life add further information, providing very useful bridging chapters between the manuscript notes written by his father. These chapters are anecdotal and augment the original manuscripts with biographical and family contributions. Diamond Jenness is considered to be one of Canada's greatest scientists: he served as Chief Anthropologist at the National Museum of Ottawa from 1926 to 1948; he actively served in both World Wars, seconded into intelligence work during the Second World War; and following his retirement in 1948 he was an avid traveller in Europe, Mexico and Martinique, writing about and studying the people and cultures he lived among, continuing the anthropological work he spent most of his life engaged in.

The book is detailed and clearly structured into twenty-two chapters covering the pertinent phases of his life: his anthropological studies and expeditions, the war years, and European travels. …

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